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Abortion access returns to Jackson — for now

An abortion rally in Jackson, Wyo. following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Will Walkey
An abortion rally in Jackson, Wyo. following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Jackson will once again be home to one of the state’s only abortion providers.

On Tuesday, Feb. 6, Dr. Katie Noyes confirmed she’s offering pregnancy-ending medications at St. John’s Family Medicine starting this month.

“Safe and available primary care, including reproductive healthcare, is critical for the health of our community,” she wrote in a statement.

Noyes — a family physician — previously offered this service, alongside Dr. Giovannina Anthony, at a private practice.

That clinic, Women’s Health and Family Care, shut its doors in December due to the high costs of rent, supplies and labor. The fate of abortion services in the region has been uncertain ever since, resulting in widespread concerns about the future of women’s health in Jackson.

The only other in-person providers in Wyoming are in Casper, at the Wellspring Health Access clinic — an over four hour drive from Jackson.

Legal uncertainties

St. John’s appears to be changing course with its recent decision to allow abortion services.

In late December, Noyes told KHOL that the hospital’s legal team told her she wouldn’t be allowed to provide the service due to legal holdups.

“I just cried for most of the meeting because I was just too upset to have a discussion about it,” Noyes said in a past interview.

Noyes only provides medical abortions, rather than surgical ones. Also known as “medication abortions,” the pregnancy is terminated through pills, and it’s the most common way to get an abortion.

Last year, state lawmakers passed laws banning almost all abortions, including ones done through medications. But a group of abortion access advocates sued the state, and Teton County Judge Melissa Owens stopped the laws from going into effect.

Owens heard arguments in that case in December and could issue an opinion any day — either protecting or restricting abortion access in the state.

In the final days of 2023, Noyes said she was pushing the hospital to reconsider its decision to not allow medical abortions, saying the care is still “100 percent legal.”

Changing course

It appears that strategy worked, with the hospital reversing its decision.

Karen Connelly, chief communications officer at St. John’s Health, said in a Tuesday night statement that the hospital has spent the last few months seeking legal advice.

“In accordance with such advice, SJH (St. John’s Health) will continue to support the autonomy of its Providers to engage in their full scope of practice, so long as they fully comply with current Wyoming law and all relevant medical standards,” Connelly wrote.

It’s unclear what exact legal advice the hospital was taking into account, given the confidential nature of attorney-client relations.

But, Noyes previously said the legal team was worried about its medical licenses and its doctors being retroactively prosecuted if the courts eventually let the abortion bans go into effect.

Under the statutes, anyone who provides an abortion could end up in jail for up to five years, or pay a fine of up to $20,000, or both.

St. John’s will continue to monitor legal developments, Connelly said, “consulting with our Providers and adjusting our approach as needed to maintain full compliance with Wyoming law.”

Other providers

The decision from St. John’s came as a relief to Anthony, the other doctor who provided medical abortions at the now-closed clinic.

She’s opening a private clinic, and if Noyes wasn’t allowed to offer the service, she said she would have had to fill that gap.

“I don't have to, like, scramble and figure something out,” Anthony said. “I would feel a ton of pressure.”

She said, while there isn’t a high volume of patients seeking abortions in the region, she feels it’s important to have a presence in Jackson, since patients come from across Western Wyoming and Eastern Idaho.

But Anthony said she realized it’s not necessary to have two abortion providers in Teton County.

So, Dr. Noyes being able to be a reliable and solid provider here in Teton County honestly really frees me up to work things out, possibly in other parts of the state,” she said. “So, I feel like ultimately that leads to more access to services.”

Anthony said she’s looking into working with the clinic in Casper or online providers, such as Just the Pill. She also plans to focus more on activism, as she’s one of the plaintiffs in the ongoing litigation against the state’s abortion bans.

Her private practice will open on March 1 in Wilson and focus on perimenopausal and menopausal women.

**This story has been updated to include comments from Dr. Giovannina Anthony.

Hanna is the Mountain West News Bureau reporter based in Teton County.

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