A 2012 amendment to the Wyoming Constitution is keeping the state from prohibiting abortion, Teton County District Court Judge Melissa Owens ruled Wednesday.
Passed by state Republicans during the height of the Obamacare controversy, the amendment granting citizens the right to make independent health care decisions was Owens' primary reason for the temporary restraining order.
It makes the state's near-total abortion ban, which declared the procedure a felony punishable for up to five years in prison, rendered ineffective as the legal process continues to play out.
Republican lawmakers had attempted to get around the 2012 measure by arguing in the Life is a Human Right Act that "instead of being health care, abortion is the intentional termination of the life of an unborn baby."
But Owens expressed while questioning Wyoming Attorney General Bridget Hill's team Wednesday that she was "still hung up" on the idea that abortion could not be considered health care.
"An abortion can only be performed by a licensed medical professional, so what authority does the Legislature have to declare that abortion is not health care when our laws only allow a licensed medical professional to administer one?" Owens asked the defense.
Jay Jerde, the Wyoming special assistant attorney general, reiterated that the Legislature's premise was that "intentional killing of an unborn child cannot be considered" health care.
"I would concede that if you focus just on the pregnant woman, it becomes a little bit easier to say, well, this has to be health care," Jerde stated. "But if you view it from that other perspective, it clearly is not."
CNBC noted that other language in the constitutional amendment granting the Legislature the ability to "determine reasonable and necessary restrictions" might allow the abortion ban to take effect after legal proceedings are complete.
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