By MEAD GRUVER Associated Press
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — The Wyoming Supreme Court has declined to weigh in on questions involving a lawsuit over the state’s new abortion ban, keeping the case that has prevented the ban from taking effect since last summer wholly in state district court at least for now.
There’s not enough information in the “limited factual record” to answer all 12 legal questions Teton County District Judge Melissa Owens certified to the state high court, Supreme Court Chief Justice Kate Fox wrote without elaboration in a one-page ruling Tuesday.
The case could yet go before the state Supreme Court, however, after an eventual decision in Owens’ court.
Wyoming’s new law would ban abortion except in cases of rape or incest or to protect the mother’s life or health, not including psychological conditions. Violators could be charged with a felony punishable by up to 14 years in prison.
Gov. Mark Gordon, a Republican, signed the abortion “trigger” ban into law in March. The law was written to take effect after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade decision, which happened June 24, and following review by the state attorney general.
Four women including two obstetricians, and two nonprofits including a planned Casper women’s health care and abortion clinic that was firebombed in May, sued to contest the new law.
Hours after the law took effect July 27, Owens suspended it, siding with the women and nonprofits by ruling that the ban was vague and appeared to violate the state constitution. The ban would likely harm women with pregnancy complications and threaten doctors with prosecution if they tried to help with abortions, Owens wrote.
Ten of the questions Owens certified to the state Supreme Court on Nov. 30 asked whether the ban violated provisions of the state constitution, among them a 2012 amendment guaranteeing adults the right to make their own health care decisions.
Wyoming voters approved the amendment amid debate over the Affordable Care Act seeking to expand access to health insurance coverage nationwide. While state attorneys argued that the amendment wasn’t intended to apply to abortion, Owens wrote that a judge can’t assume voters didn’t understand the amendment’s full effect.
Owens also had asked the state Supreme Court whether the new abortion law was unconstitutionally vague and whether it violated citizens’ right to privacy.