By Hannah Shields
Wyoming Tribune Eagle
Via- Wyoming News Exchange
CHEYENNE — A reproductive rights bill was filed by the Wyoming Democratic Caucus on Monday, which also was the 51st anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision in the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Wyoming Democratic Caucus is made up of the only seven Democrats among the 93 total members in the Legislature. Two are in the Senate, and five are in the House of Representatives.
House Bill 76, titled the Reproductive Freedom Act, restricts state interference in a person’s right to an abortion until either the pregnancy is viable (when the fetus can survive outside the womb) or when the person’s life is in danger. The bill also keeps this right between the pregnant person and their health care provider.
Public policy spelled out in the act also protects a person from state discrimination in their choice to carry out a pregnancy and protects the right to take birth control.
Rep. Mike Yin, D-Jackson, the bill’s sponsor, said he and members of his party want to return Wyoming statute back to “the viability standard.”
“We have a current abortion ban on the books, which is unconstitutional,” Yin told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle on Monday. “It’s currently working its way through the courts, but this would make the court case moot.”
Yin said part of the inspiration for this bill came from a Texas abortion lawsuit.
Texas has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, banning an abortion once a heartbeat is detected, with the exception of saving the mother’s life.
Kate Cox, a Texas woman pregnant with her third child, sued the state in early December when she learned she did not qualify for an abortion, despite the fatal condition of the fetus, which threatens her health and future fertility, according to reporting from The Texas Tribune.
Yin wrote in the Democratic Caucus’ news release that this bill would “ensure that the State of Wyoming cannot place the citizens of Wyoming in similar medical jeopardy.”
“Reproductive freedom is currently threatened by an unconstitutional abortion ban that represents vast overreach into the lives and medical decisions of individuals,” Yin wrote in the release. “The introduction of this Act is a crucial step toward protecting and preserving the reproductive rights of all Wyomingites.”
Abortion rights in Wyoming
Wyoming passed two bills that restricted abortion rights during the 2023 general session: the “Life is a Human Right” Act, a blanket ban on abortion in the state, and Senate File 109, which bans chemical abortions, including abortion pills.
These laws, along with a 2022 “trigger” bill that went into effect after Roe v. Wade was overturned that year, are being contested in Teton County through a lawsuit against the state.
Rep. Jeanette Ward, R-Casper, who co-sponsored both the “Life is a Human Right” Act and SF 109, said this year’s HB 76 “contradicts” these laws and “is dead on arrival in the Wyoming House.”
“It is scientific fact that life begins at conception. It is shocking that a party who claims to be so committed to ‘science’ can imply or claim otherwise,” Ward wrote to the WTE in an email. “Since human life begins at conception and is a separate human life from his or her mother’s, that life is worthy of protection from murder.”
Rep. Clark Stith, R-Rock Springs, said it is unlikely a non-budget bill would get the required two-thirds introduction vote, since the session that begins Feb. 12 is a budget session.
“It’s difficult to imagine that happening,” Stith told the WTE.
Yin made little comment on his thoughts of whether the bill would get passed through the Legislature this session, other than it was up to his colleagues.
“That’s a question for the Republican Caucus. I don’t have an answer,” Yin said. “This is a Republican-majority state. That truly is up to them.”
Since this year is also an election year, Yin said the next steps for him and the Democratic Party include making sure Wyomingites understand that reproductive health care is an issue decided by their lawmakers.
“If the people of Wyoming think that it’s an important issue, that’s one they should be taking to the ballot box with them,” Yin said.