After weeks of discussion, legislative maneuvering and significant edits, the “Life is a Human Right Act” became one of the final bills to pass both the House and Senate in the waning hours of the Wyoming Legislature’s 2023 general session.
House Bill 152, sponsored by Rep. Rachel Rodriguez-Williams (R-Cody), is currently awaiting the consideration of Gov. Mark Gordon.
The bill was drafted as a response to legal challenges the state has faced for the “abortion trigger ban” introduced by Rodriguez-Williams last session. The language of the bill was intended as a way to protect the new legislation from similar court challenges in the future, she said.
However, the constitutionality of much of that proposed language was questioned in both the Senate and the House. This included a section saying the Legislature had the power to interpret the Wyoming Constitution and another saying Rodriguez-Williams and the bill’s other 36 co-sponsors had the right to intervene and defend it in future court cases.
The constitutionality of the bill was such a concern that Senate President Ogden Driskill (R-Devils Tower) refused to bring the bill to the floor for over two weeks after it had passed the House. When the bill was finally introduced to the Senate, the sections that raised constitutional questions were removed.
In addition, while Rodriguez-Williams wrote the bill as a blanket ban on abortions — one that can lead to a felony conviction, fines of up to $20,000, up to five years in prison and potential civil penalties for abortion providers — the Senate added in exemptions for rape and incest.
While deciding whether to concur with the Senate’s amendments on March 2, representatives said the resulting bill is one that looks similar to the trigger bill passed last year. And legislators were divided on whether it did anything other than make an anti-abortion political statement.
“It seems to me we’re trying to pass another bill just to pass another bill and make us feel good,” said Rep. Landon Brown (R-Cheyenne). “I don’t think that’s what we want to do … . It doesn’t do much different than what we’ve already got. So I guess I’m trying to understand why we’re passing another bill to do the same thing we’ve already got.”
Perhaps the most notable addition to the bill is its statement that abortion cannot be considered a form of health care in Wyoming, Rep. Clark Stith (R-Rock Springs) said. But he wondered what impact, if any, that statement would have.
“The core idea was to say abortion is not health care,” Stith said. “I understand we’re saying that in this bill. But the problem is you can’t use a statute to interpret the Constitution. So when the courts see this, their eyes will glaze over. I don’t think the courts will much care that we say this in the statute because it doesn’t change the meaning of health care in the Wyoming Constitution.”
Rep. Chip Nieman (R-Hulett) recognized concessions had been made, he also said he felt the new bill was an improvement over the previous trigger ban, House Bill 92.
“There are some things that were stripped out of this bill in order to salvage some critical pieces of this legislation that 92 does not have,” Neiman said. “The current definition of (abortion) in 92 goes back to the 1970s Roe v. Wade decision. That was changed in 152. In 152, we now require reporting for rape and incest (before an exemption is granted). That is not in 92.
“…It’s not exactly what we would have liked … but we all understand compromise and trying to work with both sides to address concerns is an important part of making legislation move ahead.”
Nieman is one of the bill’s co-sponsors — a role he shares with Park County legislators including Rep. John Winter (R-Thermopolis), Sen. Tim French (R-Powell) and Sen. Dan Laursen (R-Powell).
Rodriguez-Williams only spoke briefly during the concurrence discussion, but she voted in favor of approving the Senate’s amendments and sending the bill to the governor’s desk for consideration. In total, 49 representatives voted for concurrence, 10 voted against it and three were absent.
Despite constitutional concerns, the bill easily cleared both the House and Senate. The House approved the bill on a 46-16 vote on Feb. 8. The Senate approved it March 1 with 25 voting for the bill, five voting against it and one legislator absent. All Park County legislators were in support.
As of this writing ---Wednesday March 8 AM - Go vernor Gordon has still not signed HB-152 Life is a Human Right bill into law. The bill passed both houses easily and is sitting on his desk. It's not on today's list of bills to be signed by Guv Gordo.
I sincerely hope he does NOT sign that abominable bill. He would be certifying wholly un- constitutional legislation in doing so. Wisdom says he should veto it. Republican habituation suggests Gordon will leave it unsigned to become law without his name on it. He probably used a 10-foot insulated bamboo pole to shove it over into the corner of his office, out of sight out of mind. HB-152 is pathologic politicks.
My report card for local Legislators : Sandy Newsome and David Northrup get a passing grade. Rachel Rodriguez and Dan Laursen get D- and F bad grades . Tim French gets an Incomplete/ Failed the course because he was the most ineffective legislator in Cheyenne this year. French has been Park County's Senator for three years now and has yet to introduce any legislation with his name on it. It's like he's not even there . ( but that could perversely be a silver lining... given French's record and demeanor, any legislation he gins up would likely be totally awful stuff )
Rachel's addiction to All Things Anti-Abortion keeps her from accomplishing much of anything else. She's a three legged nag 1-trick pony lawmaker who not only does her real constituents a huge disservice . She honestly believes because she won the popular vote hereabouts that all those people must somehow agree with her hardcore social conservative dogma and were not just voting straight ticket down the red side of the ballot. They ... do ...not. The same could be said of Laursen and French owing to their cultish allegiance to the Wyoming Freedom Caucus ' tyrannical legislative sausagemaking . Neither of those two have exhibited any original thinking since we sent them to Cheyenne. Other people do their thinking for them . Very sinister people...
But hey! it's a Citizen Legislature. You get who you vote for. So frankly , it's on you. I sure as sunrise did not vote for them...
You may have heard that today the Wyoming legislature passed two extreme bills banning abortion. One of those bills, a near-total ban, is likely to go into effect tomorrow (or in the next few days). You should know that right now, you can legally get abortion pills (200 mg of mifepristone + 8 pills of 200 mcg misoprostol) *in advance*, to have in case you need them in the future. The pills expire in about two years and will have an expiration date listed on the packaging.
You can learn more about this option at any of the following links:
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