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Wyoming Supreme Court returns abortion ban case to Jackson

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The high court has declined to answer a dozen constitutional questions posed by the abortion law — for now.

Madelyn BeckWyoFile

The Wyoming Supreme Court on Tuesday declined, for now, to take up the suit challenging the state’s abortion “trigger” ban.

The high court’s decision not to answer constitutional questions posed by supporters of the abortion ban law sends the suit back to district court. 

Three women and two groups who sued the state claiming the abortion ban violated the state constitution had opposed Wyoming Supreme Court involvement at this stage of the case. They said in court filings there was an “incomplete factual record” that would prevent the high court from making decisions and that elevating the issue now would be “premature.”

The Supreme Court’s decision means access to abortion remains legal in the state, per a preliminary injunction filed over the summer in district court in Jackson. 

An appeal of any district court decision about the abortion ban could ultimately result in the matter returning to the high court, however. 

Who said what

“After a careful review of the Certification Order, this Court finds it should decline to answer the certified questions,” justices stated in a brief notice filed Tuesday. “This Court does not believe it can answer all twelve certified questions on the limited factual record provided.”

Ninth District Judge Melissa Owens had listed the questions in a decision following a Nov. 21 hearing. They included whether the abortion ban bill as codified violates the Wyoming Constitution’s Article 1, sections 2, 3, 6, 7, 18, 33, 34, 36, 38 and Article 21, section 25. The questions also included whether the ban was unconstitutionally vague or violates citizens’ right to privacy. 

The suit will now return to Ninth District Court, but whatever results there could still be appealed to the Wyoming Supreme Court. 

The history

Wyoming passed its “trigger law” in March 2022 to ban abortion in most cases if the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. 

SCOTUS effectively overturned Roe in June, which made way for the state’s ban to take effect in July with exemptions for rape, incest or the life of the pregnant woman. 

The women and pro-choice groups filed suit against the new law, and soon after the abortion ban law went into effect, Judge Owens granted a temporary restraining order followed by a preliminary injunction that blocked the law’s implementation. 

She subsequently ordered the suit be certified, or advanced, to the Wyoming Supreme Court.

Owens also filed a 13-page order denying two legislators’ and Right to Life of Wyoming’s requests to intervene, or join, in the case. 


This article was originally published by WyoFile and is republished here with permission. WyoFile is an independent nonprofit news organization focused on Wyoming people, places and policy.


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