The 2019 Wyoming legislative session has seen the introduction of a bill that, if made law, would impose a 48-hour waiting period before an abortion can be performed in the state.
Sponsored by Rep. Richard Tass, R-Sheridan, the legislation seeks to require a physician to not take action for 48 hours when a request for an abortion is set into motion, with the exception of a medically determined emergency.
“The object of that waiting period is, as I said on the House floor and I got some grief over it, but, to give her the gift of time to reconsider or think about the ramifications of having an abortion,” Tass said. “What’s it’s not only going to do to the life of the child but to her life later on.”
The third reading of the bill in the House yielded a 36-22 vote, with two excused. Among the nays were Rep. Charles Pelkey, D-Albany, who said that the Legislature has no business getting involved.
“The advocates have called this a gift to women to give them a time to reconsider,” Pelkey said. “But this imposes a legislative waiting period on a medical procedure that should fundamentally be a decision between a woman and her doctor.”
Contrary to what Pelkey said, Tass said that he believes it’s the government’s duty to protect life.
“Abortion is wrong. It’s taking a human life,” Tass said. “I believe very strongly that life needs to be protected from conception to natural death and it’s not like going and washing your hands. It’s a heartbeat, it’s a soul, it’s a living being and I feel that it’s the job of government to protect life.”
Pelkey said that he doesn’t support this bill due to not only the personal opinion that a woman has a right to her own body but also because of the private nature of the decision making process.
“The presumption is that a woman who is seeking an abortion just suddenly does it on impulse and runs to the doctor,” Pelkey said. “I’m sure this has been difficult and long decision to be made well before they go to the doctor.”
Wyoming only has two clinics that perform abortions, both residing in the city of Jackson, creating a distance hindrance to residents seeking an abortion.
“This (bill) accomplishes nothing other than to make it more difficult to receive an abortion in the state of Wyoming,” Pelkey said. “Frankly, if you lived in Cheyenne, I would suggest considering going to Colorado but if you want to stay in Wyoming, that means a long drive to Jackson, two days in expensive Jackson hotels and another long drive home.”
This bill has the potential to affect women in Wyoming that make the decision to terminate their pregnancies. Though, the finite number of clinics that provide such a service could have an impact on the population that this bill could affect.
Tass said that he’s received responses from residents that lean both ways regarding the bill.
“I have gotten lots of emails,” Tass said. “I have gotten over 50 from women that are supporting this bill, I’ve gotten a few that have ‘oh, you can’t do that’. I think those that wanting to kill their babies probably aren’t going to like it. Those that want to protect life are very, very much in favor of it because that’s our job; is to protect life.”
Pelkey said that this bill is completely limiting a woman’s right to choose.
“This is one of those bills that is chipping away at the right that was elucidated in Roe vs. Wade,” Pelkey said. “It’s definitely an anti-abortion bill or an anti-choice bill that’s going to chip away at a woman’s right choose and I fundamentally think that women have a right to make a decision about their own bodies.”
As of Feb. 12, the bill was introduced into the Senate and referred to the Labor Committee.
If passed by the Senate and made law, the measure wouldn’t go into effect until July 1.
Alongside this measure are two other bills, House Bill 103 and House Bill 302. House Bill 103 would require additional information such as race, ethnicity and marital status be recorded and reported to the vital records office when an abortion is performed in Wyoming. House Bill 302 would punish physicians that fail to inform a woman requesting an abortion that she has the option to see an ultrasound or hear the fetal heartbeat, the punishment being either a $750 fine or 6 months in prison or both. House Bill 103 is currently waiting a hearing in the Labor Committee while House Bill 302 was not brought up in time for consideration.