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Abortion opponents urge action

Jackson OB-GYN Dr. Giovannina Anthony reacts Wednesday after 9th District Court Judge Melissa Owens issued a temporary restraining order blocking Wyoming’s law banning most abortions in the state. Dr. Anthony was one of six plaintiffs who filed a lawsuit against the state of Wyoming, Gov. Mark Gordon and three others.

• Group tells council they don’t want clinic in community

By Mary Steurer
Casper Star-Tribune
Via Wyoming News Exchange

CASPER — Dozens of abortion opponents urged local leaders at Tuesday’s Casper City Council meeting to take a stance against the city’s new abortion clinic. 

“We would like to come alongside of you, city council, to work with you to make the Casper community a sanctuary for the unborn,” former Republican state lawmaker Bob Brechtel told councilors during the meeting, which took place at local event venue The Lyric. (The council is in the new space while City Hall undergoes renovations.) 

The theater was so full during public comment that several members of the public had to wait outside for seats to free up. 

Speakers came to the council with a variety of different asks. Some wanted an end to Wellspring Health Access altogether; some asked for its services to be curtailed, and others, for councilors to speak out against abortion more broadly. 

Some who spoke Tuesday also asked the city to revoke the clinic’s business license, or the licenses of the medical professionals who were there. 

Casper doesn’t issue business licenses, and the licensing of medical providers is handled at the state level. 

A spokesperson for Wellspring said the clinic did not have comment on the meeting or any of the proposals brought to the council at this time. 

The facility, which began seeing patients in April, is the only clinic in the state offering both surgical and medical abortions. Its opening was delayed by almost a year after an arsonist broke in and set it aflame, causing around $290,000 in damage. 

Among those who offered comments Tuesday were Rep. Jeanette Ward, R-Casper, former True Care President and CEO Terry Winship and Cathy Ide, spouse of Sen. Bob Ide, R-Casper. 

“It warms my heart to see so many committed to the cause of life here in Wyoming,” Ward told the council during the meeting. 

Local abortion opponent Ross Schriftman called on the city council to adopt a resolution condemning the presence of abortion clinics in Casper. (Resolutions adopted by the city are usually symbolic in nature and don’t hold legal weight.) 

“Mr. Mayor and council, please give our resolution your consideration and acknowledgement that Casper is a pro-baby, pro-moms-and-dads, pro-life-affirming paradise,” he said, adding that more than 260 people backed the proposal. 

Bretchel asked the council to go a step further by passing a blanket ban on abortion in the city. 

There’s a growing movement across the country to make abortion illegal at the local level. One organization, called “Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn,” says a total 67 municipalities and two counties have passed ordinances opposing abortion. (So far, that group doesn’t include any Wyoming communities.)

It’s unclear what would happen if Casper moved forward with legislation like that. 

In wake of the Dobbs decision, the legality of abortion has been a mostly state-level debate. And both medical and surgical abortions are still legal in Wyoming. 

Two new bans adopted by the Legislature earlier this year — one targeting abortion pills, and another prohibiting abortion except in cases of rape, incest and select medical circumstances — are currently on hold while they are being considered by a judge in Teton County.

As of Wednesday morning, City Attorney Eric Nelson said he still hadn’t seen physical copies of any of the proposals floated to council Tuesday night, so he could only speculate on their legality. 

“If the city wanted to do anything, it would really be hemmed in by the fact that one, the state has already passed a couple of laws that would, in essence, to a large degree, preempt anything the city would do,” Nelson said. “But furthermore, anything the city would try to do would probably be stayed by the court order out of Jackson.” 

The Casper City Council didn’t indicate Tuesday whether it had any interest in looking into any of the abortion-related proposals pitched to it. 

Casper Mayor Bruce Knell, a vocal abortion opponent, told the audience that while the abortion ban was being hashed out by Wyoming’s court system, there was nothing the city could do. 

“Do I personally want them in our community? No, I don’t,” Knell said, referring to Wellspring Health Access. “But guess what? As the mayor, I welcome their business because they are a legal business.” 

Wyoming residents hold a wide range of opinions on abortion, according to an University of Wyoming poll published in October. 

In the survey, 36% of respondents said they viewed abortion as a matter of personal choice, and another 36% said they felt abortion should be allowed in cases of rape, incest or when the pregnancy endangers the life of the mother. 

About 19% of those surveyed said they support abortion provided there’s a clearly established reason for the procedure. Only 7% said abortion should be banned in all cases.


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