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Abortion rights advocates worry ban will cause more reproductive healthcare problems in the state

Abortion-rights activist argues with anti-abortion-rights protesters outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday.
Eman Mohammed
Abortion-rights activist argues with anti-abortion-rights protesters outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday.

The only clinic that provides abortion services in the state is still providing them. Dr. Giovannia Anthony who works at the clinic in Jackson said they are still getting calls for appointments.

"But, [they're] also wondering if that's still possible," said Anthony. She said that's because patients are super confused about whether abortion is still legal in Wyoming.

As of this publication, abortion is still legal. But that could change any day now. Anytime within the next two weeks, Wyoming's trigger law will be enacted. When that happens, all abortions in the state will be illegal except for in cases of pregnancy due to rape or incest or if there is a life-threatening issue to the mother.

"So we're informing patients that the law has not gone into effect and that we will be providing abortion services until that time," said Anthony.

Besides the clinic in Jackson, Wyomingites can use the organization Just the Pill to get a medication abortion through telehealth. Dr. Julie Amaon, Just the Pill's medical director, said once the trigger law goes into effect, they won't be able to provide telehealth in the state.

"We're hoping to have another fleet of mobile clinics that will be able to drive the border and help Wyoming[ites] in either Montana or Colorado," said Amaon. "So they would come over to the border and have their telehealth visit."

This is where most people are concentrating their efforts for providing future abortion care for Wyomingites - helping them go outside of the state. Chelsea's Fund is a non-profit that has been doing that since 1998. It helps women find a clinic and provide funding for abortion and/or travel expenses.

"We have no intention of not making it available," said Chelsea's Fund board member Christine Lichtenfels regarding their services.

She said now is an emergency to help people who are in vulnerable positions to get other types of reproductive health care services since one has been stripped away.

"We're still trying to figure out exactly how to do it, but to provide some funding for long-acting reversible contraceptives," said Lichtenfels.

Anthony, with the clinic in Jackson, agrees. She said she's trying to create more room in her schedule to get patients contraception.

"It's just that I am concerned about patients having an unplanned, unwanted pregnancy in the meantime because now they can get abortion services, but after that [trigger law] happens, we won't be able to provide it," she said.

Anthony said the demand for contraception and birth control at the clinic has increased a lot since the overturning of Roe.

"And a lot of women are asking for more long acting effective methods like the IUD. So that has been a huge shift for sure," said Anthony. "And there are even patients who aren't sure if even the IUD is legal. That's been super interesting, too. There's confusion about contraception, birth control, and abortion all kind of mixed in."

According to Cheyenne attorney Linda Burt, the trigger law does not make contraception illegal.

"What this bill does in the state of Wyoming is it basically bans all abortions, and it states, 'an abortion shall not be performed, except when necessary to preserve the woman from a serious risk of death or have substantial and irreversible physical impairment'."

Burt said in a sense it does limit reproductive health care access. The bill is four pages long and Burt said it is incredibly vague as to what is substantial and irreversible physical impairment to the mother.

"If we're not going to allow physicians to make that decision on their own without government oversight, how will that be done?" she said.

For Anthony, she's questioning what she can do for her patients. She said it is very common for women in their first trimester to bleed but the embryo is still alive. Anthony said the bleeding indicates that the patient is going to miscarry.

"But sometimes that bleeding is extremely heavy. And that patient becomes unstable because of blood loss. But if there's a heartbeat present, at what point is her bleeding so severe that we can go ahead and do what would be construed as an abortion procedure in order to save her life?" she said.

Anthony and other providers are consulting with attorneys, like Burt, to get a better understanding of what constitutes saving a life. But at this moment, it's everyone's best guess.

Abortion rights opponents say there are options on the table for pregnant women to get the care and financial help they need while pregnant and after. Those are crisis pregnancy centers throughout the state. Abortion rights opponents also agree that there should be a robust discussion to clarify the gray areas providers are worried about.

Kamila has worked for public radio stations in California, New York, France and Poland. Originally from New York City, she loves exploring new places. Kamila received her master in journalism from Columbia University. She has won a regional Murrow award for her reporting on mental health and firearm owners. During her time leading the Wyoming Public Media newsroom, reporters have won multiple PMJA, Murrow and Top of the Rockies Excellence in Journalism Awards. In her spare time, she enjoys exploring the surrounding areas with her two pups and husband.

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