- Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon signed a law Friday explicitly banning abortion pills as the fight over access to the medication heats up nationwide.
- The pills are already banned in 13 states with blanket bans on all types of abortion, while 15 states limit access to abortion pills, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion access. However, Wyoming is the first state to specifically prohibit the pills, which make up half of all abortions in the U.S.
- Pending any legal action, the ban will take effect in July. Gordon, a Republican, also on Friday allowed a separate measure restricting abortion to become law without his signature.
Medication abortion typically consists a two-pill regimen of mifepristone and another pill called misoprostol. The pills, which have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for more than two decades, are the latest target of the antiabortion movement, after the Supreme Court last summer overturned the constitutional right to abortions.
Some antiabortion groups are seeking to get the pills banned nationwide. A Texas judge is expected to rule any day now on a case looking to revoke the FDA’s decadesold approval of mifepristone — despite the lack of precedent for a court to overturn a government drug approval, and the miniscule chance of serious complications from the pill.
During a hearing last week, federal Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk of the Northern District of Texas — an appointee of former President Donald Trump and a conservative Christian — used language reflecting antiabortion messaging points, increasing concerns that he could rule in a matter of days to force manufacturers to pull mifepristone from markets nationwide, according to reporting from Kaiser Health News.
As a result, one judge’s decision could affect healthcare access for millions of pregnant people across the U.S., even in states were abortion is legal. That’s because physicians would only be able to prescribe misoprostol alone for needed abortion care. Misoprostol taken alone is safe but less effective than the standard two-pill regimen, and comes with worst side effects like nausea.
Abortion access has become increasingly divided across the U.S., with red states looking to enact more rigorous bans and blue states scrambling to expand abortion access to out-of-state patients.
The new Wyoming law signed Friday says it “shall be unlawful to prescribe, dispense, distribute, sell or use any drug for the purpose of procuring or performing an abortion to any person.” People who take the pills are exempt from liability, and the pills are allowed to “treat a natural miscarriage according to currently accepted medical guidelines.”
Penalties in the law include imprisonment for up to six months and a fine of up to $9,000.
Currently, abortion is legal up until fetal viability in Wyoming, as an earlier state ban continues to be tied up in court.
Abortion remains legal in more than half of U.S. states
In Florida — which already bans abortion after 15 weeks — Republican state lawmakers recently proposed banning the procedure after six weeks. The law, which Gov. Ron DeSantis has indicated he will sign, would curtail a major abortion access point in the South.
Meanwhile, in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, said the state would no longer do business with Walgreens after the pharmacy chain said it wouldn’t dispense abortion pills in 20 states, following pressure from Republican attorneys general in those states.
Also on Friday, the Vermont state Senate passed a bill aiming to protect healthcare workers from being punished for providing abortions by enshrining it as a legally protected healthcare activity. New Mexico’s legislature also advanced proposals aimed at safeguarding abortion access, passing a bill to protect abortion providers from out-of-state interference or prosecution.