Pro-life lawmakers, group demands to defend Wyoming trigger ban, say AG hasn’t done enough

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com

Saying the state isn’t fully representing the pro-life argument in a lawsuit against its abortion ban, two state officials and an anti-abortion organization have asked to join the lawsuit challenging the legality of the abortion ban. ‘prohibition.

State Representatives Chip Neiman, R-Hulett and Rachel Rodriguez-Williams, R-Cody — along with Wyoming Right to Life — asked a Wyoming judge on Tuesday to let them intervene in the lawsuit so they can help defend state law.

Wyoming had a trigger ban, or a law banning almost all abortions, went into effect in late July for a few hours before Teton County District Court Judge Melissa Owens halted it. Owens issued a preliminary injunction against the law on August 10, so she could consider abortion advocates’ case against her.

The case is expected to be appealed to the Wyoming Supreme Court, regardless of Owens’ final decision on whether it aligns with the state Constitution.

Owens said in her preliminary injunction order that she could interpret a Wyoming Constitution reference to “health care” to include abortion. The same section promises individuals the right to make their own health care decisions.

Rodriguez-Williams was the main sponsor of the struggling abortion ban in Wyoming. Neiman was co-sponsor.

To join the case as an intervenor, the group must prove that there is an interest, that their interests are not already fully represented and that they have an argument that will not be heard without them, according to the Tuesday filing in Teton County District Court.

Fetal life

It is the responsibility of the Attorney General of Wyoming to defend Wyoming’s abortion ban.

AG Special Assistant Jay Jerde argued on behalf of the state in court in Owens, but his argument was primarily that the state Constitution does not grant the right of access to abortion.

Jerde did not advocate for a right to fetal life.

One of the plaintiffs’ lawyers challenging the law, Marci Bramlet, told Owens in court that Jerde is not arguing for fetal life because it would be illogical; since Wyoming’s abortion ban has exceptions for cases of rape and incest. These exceptions were added in a Senate amendment after the ban cleared the State House.

“Is the interest (of the state) so compelling that it extends only to children conceived under certain circumstances and the others are – what? – not worthy of such protection? Bramlet asked in a hearing on August 9, after which Owens decided to suspend implementation of the law.

The pro-life group’s filing on Tuesday expresses concern over the state’s argument on “strictly legal” grounds rather than the well-being of women and the fetus.

They began the process of applying to intervene “once they became aware of the lawsuit and realized that their interests would not be fully and adequately represented by the existing parties,” the filing said.

“The record is also devoid of any evidence demonstrating the harm done to women and unborn children by the abortion itself,” the filing says.

Doctors and Laws

Owens’ main concern before he suspended the law and filed suit against it was that doctors would be wrongfully sued after making the quick decision to perform an abortion to save a mother’s life.

Although the law makes performing an abortion a crime punishable by up to 14 years in prison, it contains exceptions for cases involving risk of death or serious health problems.

Owens said these exceptions do not properly provide for physician judgment in these situations.

The pro-life group’s request to intervene contradicts that finding, saying the law cannot be called “vague” because the understanding of doctors’ right to make medical judgments is so entrenched in Wyoming legal interpretation that is “contained and defined in Wyoming law”. Civilian Model Jury Instructions.

The request to intervene was filed Tuesday by Denise M. Harle, an attorney and director of the Center for Life at the nonprofit group Alliance Defending Freedom, and Cheyenne attorney Frederick J. Harrison.

“The State of Wyoming is eager to protect life and uphold its law which is intended to preserve the lives of children and support mothers,” Harle said in a prepared statement. “Women deserve real health care, unborn babies deserve a chance to live, and states like Wyoming deserve the long-awaited opportunity to affirm that life is a human right.”

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