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The Guardian - AU
The Guardian - AU
Guardian staff and agencies

Wyoming becomes first US state to outlaw use of abortion pills

Bottles of the drug misoprostol on a table
Wyoming’s governor, Mark Gordon, has signed into law a bill outlawing the use of abortion pills Photograph: Allen G Breed/AP

Wyoming has become the first US state to outlaw the use or prescription of medication abortion pills after the governor, Mark Gordon, signed into law a bill that was passed by the state’s Republican-controlled legislature earlier this month.

The crux of the two-page Wyoming bill is a provision making it illegal to “prescribe, dispense, distribute, sell or use any drug for the purpose of procuring or performing an abortion”.

So-called “morning-after” pills, prescription contraceptive medication used after sex but before a pregnancy can be confirmed, are exempted from the ban.

The measure also includes an exemption for any treatment necessary to protect a woman “from an imminent peril that substantially endangers her life or health”, as well as any treatment of a “natural miscarriage according to currently accepted medical guidelines”.

Violation of the ban is to be treated as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $9,000.

The measure stipulates that a woman “upon whom a chemical abortion is performed or attempted shall not be criminally prosecuted”.

In a statement, Wyoming ACLU advocacy director Antonio Serrano criticised the governor’s decision to sign the law.

“A person’s health, not politics, should guide important medical decisions – including the decision to have an abortion,” Serrano said.

The governor said he was also allowing enactment, without his signature, of a separate bill passed by state lawmakers to prohibit conventional abortion procedures except when necessary to protect the health and life of the mother, or in case of rape or incest. Exception is also permitted to end a pregnancy if doctors determine there to be a lethal abnormality of the foetus.

Wyoming’s new law comes as a rightwing push to crack down on medication abortions gathers momentum, with a federal judge in Texas currently considering a nationwide ban on the abortion pill mifepristone in response to a lawsuit by anti-abortion groups.

A two pill combination of mifepristone and another drug is the most common form of abortion in the US.

Medication abortions were the preferred method for ending pregnancy in the US even before the supreme court overturned Roe v Wade, the ruling that protected the right to abortion for nearly five decades.

Since that decision last June, abortion restrictions have been up to states and the landscape has shifted quickly. Thirteen states are now enforcing bans on abortion at any point in pregnancy, and one more, Georgia, bans it once cardiac activity can be detected, or at about six weeks’ gestation.

Courts have put on hold enforcement of abortion bans or deep restrictions in Arizona, Indiana, Montana, Ohio, South Carolina, Utah and Wyoming. Idaho courts have forced the state to allow abortions during medical emergencies.

Reuters and Associated Press contributed to this report

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