Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon has signed a bill prohibiting abortion pills while allowing a separate measure that restricts abortion to become law without his signature.
Gordon signed the bill into law on Friday, prohibiting chemical abortions in Wyoming, which became the first state in the country to prohibit the abortion pill outside of a full ban on the procedure.
“I believe all life is sacred and that every individual, including the unborn, should be treated with dignity and compassion,” Gordon wrote in a March 17 letter (pdf) to the Wyoming secretary of state, in which he explained that he was letting House Bill 152—Life Is a Human Right—to go into law without his signature.
Violations of the ban on prescribing and selling abortion pills are punishable by up to six months in jail and a $9,000 fine.
Abortion pills have already been prohibited in 13 states where there are blanket bans on all types of abortion, and access to the pills is limited in 15 other states.
“My promise to protect the unborn has been fulfilled,” state Sen. Tim Salazar, a Republican and the sponsor of the legislation, wrote on social media Friday.
Salazar noted that nearly all abortions in Wyoming are ones that are induced chemically.
Abortion Pills in Spotlight
The issue of abortion pill access was in the spotlight this week in a Texas court, where a federal judge questioned a Christian organization’s attempt to reverse the long-standing U.S. approval of mifepristone, a key abortion drug.
Medication abortions, involving a combination of mifepristone and another drug, became the favored method for terminating pregnancy in the United States even before the Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade, which for nearly 50 years ensured unfettered access to abortions.
The ban on abortion pills in Wyoming is set to take effect in July, subject to any legal proceedings that might cause delays. The start date for the comprehensive legislation banning all abortions, which Gordon allowed to become law, is unspecified.
Despite an earlier ban being challenged in court, abortion is still legal in Wyoming up to the point of viability, when the fetus can survive outside the womb.
Gordon said in a statement that the Life Is a Human Right Act might lead to a lawsuit, delaying the resolution of the abortion ban’s constitutionality in Wyoming.
He also mentioned that plaintiffs in an ongoing lawsuit had filed a challenge to the new law earlier in the day, in case he did not veto it.
“I believe this question needs to be decided as soon as possible so that the issue of abortion in Wyoming can be finally resolved, and that is best done with a vote of the people,” Gordon said in a statement.
Wyoming American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) advocacy director Antonio Serrano criticized Gordon’s decision to sign the abortion pill ban.
Serrano said that “a person’s health, not politics, should guide important medical decisions—including the decision to have an abortion.”
In six of the 15 states where access to abortion pills is restricted, an in-person physician visit is required. Such laws may be upheld in court in the face of challenges, as states have long-standing authority over the practices of physicians, pharmacists, and other providers.
States also regulate telemedicine consultations for prescribing medications. In states with abortion pill restrictions, health providers could face penalties, like fines or license suspension, for attempting to send pills through the mail.
In 2000, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the abortion pill for ending pregnancies at up to seven weeks gestation or less. In 2016, the FDA extended the use in pregnancies at up to 10 weeks gestation.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, the abortion drug has been increasingly prescribed and has become the most common method of abortion in the United States.