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Wyoming Went Decades Without New Abortion Restrictions, But Now Has Two

Nicole Knight

One of the GOP-backed measures is based on an anti-choice front group's discredited smear campaign against Planned Parenthood.

Wyoming’s Republican Gov. Matt Mead on Thursday signed two anti-choice bills that advocates say are the first abortion restrictions signed into state law since a 1989 forced parental consent measure.

The Republican-backed HB 182 requires doctors to inform patients seeking abortion care of the opportunity to view an ultrasound. HB 116, a GOP measure based on an anti-choice front group’s discredited smear campaign against Planned Parenthood, makes it a crime punishable by up to 14 years in prison to sell, transfer, or distribute cells or tissues from an aborted fetus.

Mead reportedly signed the legislation at a ceremony attended by several dozen reproductive rights opponents.

“It’s a blow to the women of our state. It’s very discouraging,” Sharon Breitweiser, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Wyoming, said of the anti-choice measures’ passage this session, which ended March 3.

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Breitweiser told Rewire that the legislation is an “unnecessary and troubling intrusion into medical care and the doctor-patient relationship. I hope it’s a wake-up call for people that elections matter.”

Wyoming’s legislative chambers and governor’s office are under GOP control. Mead succeeded David Freudenthal, a two-term Democrat.

Breitweiser said the new laws are the first abortion restrictions in nearly three decades. The Wyoming legislature in 2007 passed a fetal homicide bill, which Freudenthal vetoed.

Wyoming will be the seventh state to require doctors to offer those seeking an abortion the opportunity to view an ultrasound. Ten states mandate an ultrasound prior to abortion care, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

Offering an ultrasound can be considered a “veiled attempt to personify the fetus and dissuade a woman from obtaining an abortion,” as the Guttmacher Institute notes, since an ultrasound is not considered medically necessary in first-trimester terminations.

The Wyoming Medical Society had expressed concerns that the fetal tissue ban, HB 116, would make it a crime to test miscarried fetal tissue to understand why the miscarriage occurred, as the Daily Progress reported. The final legislation, however, makes exceptions for abortions performed following a miscarriage and for medical examinations and testing.

Reproductive rights advocates told Rewire it’s unclear whether fetal tissue research is even underway in the the state.

In 2015, a series of covertly recorded videos, which purported to show a few Planned Parenthood affiliates unlawfully selling fetal tissue, ignited a GOP-led firestorm and subsequent attempts to criminalize voluntary fetal tissue donation programs. Republican legislators in at least 30 states have tried to outlaw fetal tissue donation and scientific research.

Both Wyoming laws are set to go into effect on July 1.

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