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First Wyoming Reproductive Freedom Summit considers abortion’s uncertain future

A sign which says “Welcome to the Wyoming Reproductive Freedom Summit: We are committed to having a peaceful, kind and respectful gathering in support of reproductive freedom.”
Hannah Habermann
/
Wyoming Public Media
A sign at the entrance of the Wyoming Reproductive Freedom Summit.

This story is part of our Quick Hits series. This series will bring you breaking news and short updates from throughout the state.

The first-ever Wyoming Reproductive Freedom Summit took place at the Lander Convention Center on June 22. On a Saturday afternoon, more than 150 people gathered to talk about the state of abortion care in the Cowboy State. The summit was hosted by Chelsea’s Fund, a Wyoming-based non-profit abortion advocacy organization.

The event kicked off with a panel of medical professionals who provide abortions. Dr. Giovannina Anthony is an OB-GYN in Jackson and is one of the plaintiffs suing the state of Wyoming to keep abortion legal. She said abortion bans present physicians with what she called "an impossible choice."

"You're going to risk losing licensure, caring for your family, your career of choice, a prison sentence and a felony charge – or do the right thing for somebody and just hope that it isn’t questioned [or] that it brings you to court,” she said.

In April, the Wyoming Supreme Court declined to rule on the legality of abortion and sent the issue back to the district court in Teton County. The state’s near-total and medical abortion bans enacted in 2023 have been blocked from going into effect while challenges make their way through the courts.

Abortion is currently legal in Wyoming until "viability," which is the stage of pregnancy when a fetus has developed enough that it is able to survive outside the uterus with medical help. Abortion is banned after this point, which is generally at 24 to 26 weeks of pregnancy.

Writer Jessica Valenti was the keynote speaker at the summit and runs a national newsletter called Abortion, Everyday. She said Idaho has lost about a quarter of the state’s OB-GYNS since it enacted a near-total ban on abortion – and that loss is having a big impact.

“Hospitals are starting to shut down their maternity wards. That means for some pregnant women, they have to travel hours in order to find a hospital where they can give birth. I know that this is something that is a big problem in Wyoming as well. The maternal health deserts are just enormous,” she said.

Tune in to Open Spaces this Friday and Sunday to hear more about the Reproductive Freedom Summit and the future of abortion in Wyoming.

Hannah Habermann is the rural and tribal reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. She has a degree in Environmental Studies and Non-Fiction Writing from Middlebury College and was the co-creator of the podcast Yonder Lies: Unpacking the Myths of Jackson Hole. Hannah also received the Pattie Layser Greater Yellowstone Creative Writing & Journalism Fellowship from the Wyoming Arts Council in 2021 and has taught backpacking and climbing courses throughout the West.

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