Plaintiffs file request for preliminary injunction
August 11, 2022
CASPER — Plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging Wyoming’s abortion ban filed a motion for a preliminary injunction on Wednesday. If granted, the preliminary injunction would block the ban’s enforcement for the duration of the lawsuit.
The plaintiffs — Wyoming providers and residents and a Wyoming abortion fund — filed the lawsuit on July 25 following Gov. Gordon’s certification of the state’s abortion ban.
The defendants are the State of Wyoming, Gordon, Attorney General Bridget Hill, Teton County Sheriff Matthew Carr and Town of Jackson Chief of Police Michelle Weber.
Teton County Judge Melissa Owens granted the plaintiffs a temporary restraining order, which blocks the ban’s enforcement, hours after the ban went into effect. That temporary restraining order is in place until Wednesday.
The hearing for a preliminary injunction, which would block the ban’s enforcement for the duration of the lawsuit, is scheduled for Tuesday morning.
A memorandum filed in support of the motion expands on the plaintiffs’ argument that the ban is unconstitutional.
Another plaintiff in the lawsuit, University of Wyoming law student Kathleen Dow, is a practicing Jew. She argued in her affidavit that abortion access is “an essential part” of her faith which, she said, “believes that abortions are permissible, and in some cases required.”
Former Mills Town Councilman and anti-abortion advocate Mike Pyatt doesn’t hold much sympathy for that argument.
“Her religious views or mine don’t override the right of the unborn,” he said.
The memorandum points to articles in Wyoming’s constitution that guarantee religious tolerance and freedom. It also argues that the ban could impose certain religious beliefs on people who don’t hold those same beliefs, pointing to the lawsuit against Kentucky’s abortion ban, in which defendants argued that life begins at conception and that it then falls under constitutional protection.
The court hearing the case said that the defendants’ argument “is a distinctly Christian and Catholic belief.”
“Other faiths hold a wide variety of views on when life begins and at what point a fetus should be recognized as an independent human being.”
Among its arguments, the memorandum asserts that the ban would only impact health care provided to women. It therefore “discriminates on the basis of sex” and violates the equal protection guarantees in Wyoming’s constitution.
“Men and women participate equally in the creation of a fetus, yet there is no resulting penalty under the Ban for a man and he bears no consequences for his contribution,” the memorandum says.
All of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit are women, one of whom, Danielle Johnson, is 22 weeks pregnant.
“I think it’s invalid,” co-sponsor of the bill that became Wyoming’s trigger abortion law, Rep. John Bear, R-Gillette, said of the equal protection argument.
He declined to explain why, saying he would leave that up to the defendants’ lawyer to argue.
Pyatt said he considers abortion to be discriminatory toward “the unborn.”
He added that he thinks the inequality between men and women “will not change.”
“Well, the fact is, women have always carried the babies, that’s not going to change,” he said. “Look, that’s part of creation, the argument that the man doesn’t bear as much of a burden, that’s biologically true.”
The lawyers representing the plaintiffs also draw on a 2012 constitutional amendment that was meant to protect Wyomingites from being forced to enroll in health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. The amendment allows each “competent adult” to make his or her own health care decisions.
Proponents of the amendment did not intend for it to be used to argue against an abortion ban, the Star-Tribune previously reported.
“When I read it, I don’t see the argument there of what they’re thinking,” said former lawmaker Bob Brechtel, an anti-abortion advocate who co-sponsored the resolution that sent the constitutional amendment to public vote. “I just hope they don’t turn it into something that it was not at all intended to be.”
And anti-abortion advocates don’t agree that abortion should be considered a form of health care.
“The whole issue is confusing between abortion and actual health care, we’re talking about health care,” Brechtel said. “The concern that we have obviously is that every abortion really is the killing of human life.”
But some of the plaintiffs with experience as physicians and nurses — Dr. Giovannina Anthony of the Jackson Women’s Health Center and Family Care Clinic, Dr. Rene Hinkle of the Cheyenne Women’s Health Clinic and Johnson — argue that it’s not always so simple.
There can be situations when it’s best to end a pregnancy because the baby won’t survive once it’s born. There can be emergency situations in which they need to make quick decisions to preserve the life and health of a woman, even if that could harm a fetus. And the providers argue that the law is unclear about when a woman’s health or life is at risk enough for an abortion under the ban to be legal.