Banned in Wyoming: Outlawing Abortion Pills


If my Uncle Joe were still around, there would be no need to worry about the availability of banned products in Northern Wyoming.  My uncle John Joseph Carey was a respected businessman, a Packard dealer, hotel owner, and Elks’ Club member in Greybull, Wy., an oil-boom railroad town close to the Montana border.

But when the Volstead Act made alcohol illegal on January 17, 1920, Uncle Joe set out to ensure the town would not go thirsty. He drove his top-of-the-line Packard to Canada and returned with enough booze to keep the populace happy for months.

Today there may be need for a more essential banned product: abortion pills. On March 17, Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon signed a first-in-the-nation law, making abortion pills illegal. At the same time, Gordon allowed an abortion ban, the second such prohibition passed by the GOP-dominated Legislature, to become law without his signature. The law banning mifepristone and misoprostol (the abortion pills) is scheduled to go into effect in July. Violations will be treated as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of $9,000.

Events are happening fast in Wyoming. Abortion is still legal — temporarily. On March 2, Teton County District Court Melissa Owens blocked the abortion ban that took effect only days earlier. It was the second time that Judge Owens had taken that action. She put the first such ban on hold last summer.

The new abortion ban was written by Wyoming lawmakers to overcome Judge Owens’ earlier objections and to subvert the amendment in the Wyoming Constitution that says that adults have a right to make their own health-care decisions. In response, the Wyoming lawmakers passed a bill with an Orwellian twist. It states that “abortion is not health care.”

This week, Judge Owens reaffirmed that “the state cannot legislate away a constitutional right.” She added that it’s not clear whether abortion is health care, but she said that decision should be decided by the court, not the legislature. Lawyers for the nonprofits and doctors who have sued to block Wyoming’s broader abortion ban pointed out the absurdity of claiming abortion is not health care in one bill but does amount to health care in the statute that bans abortion pills.

If this all makes you dizzy, it’s not surprising. It is difficult to keep track of the many ways state lawmakers, governors, and attorneys general work to go beyond the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v Wade. The anti-abortion crowd — Republican-dominated and mostly white male — have been outdoing themselves with their aggressive tactics. It is not enough to ban abortions. Instead this mob competes at crafting legislation to deny medication, criminalize care givers, and provide incentives to would-be vigilantes.

How far will anti-abortion advocates go? Well, there’s a recent case in Texas involving an about-to-be ex-husband, Marcus Silva, who has filed a lawsuit against two of his estranged wife’s women friends. The friends recently helped the divorcing wife obtain abortion pills, illegal in Texas. Silva is represented by the solicitor general who crafted SB-8, the law that allows any citizen to sue over an abortion and collect a bounty. However Silva has filed his case not under SB-8, but as a wrongful death lawsuit seeking $1 million from each of the women. His suit carries the presumption of fetal personhood and all the rights that would confer. The Silva case is yet another instance of men exercising patriarchal privilege, seeking control over women.

Fifteen states already have limited some access to pills which figure in more than half the abortions performed in the U.S. last year. (Those bans seemingly ignore that one of the medications they’re targeting, mifepristone, is being used for other conditions such as Cushing’s disease, certain cancers and PTSD).

Perhaps even more worrisome is that Texas judge, Matthew J. Kacsmaryk, a Trump appointee who has written critically about Roe v Wade, is now considering a case that could ban mifepristone throughout the entire U.S., even in states like Washington where abortion is currently legal.

Meanwhile, it is sadly ironic that Wyoming should be an abortion-banning battleground. The state has long flaunted its early recognition of women’s suffrage. Featured foremost on the state seal is Lady Justice in front of a banner that reads “Equal Rights.” Wyomingites liked to brag about being the earliest territory to grant women the right to vote in 1870 and after admission to the union in 1890, the first U. S. state to do so. In fact, the state’s nickname is “the Equality State.”

How tragic and ironic that today Wyoming is gaining new fame as the first state to ban abortion pills and to declare openly that women do not have a right to make their own health-care decisions.


Jean Godden
Jean Godden
Jean Godden wrote columns first for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and late for the Seattle Times. In 2002, she quit to run for City Council where she served for 12 years. Since then she published a book of city stories titled “Citizen Jean.” She is now co-host of The Bridge aired on community station KMGP at 101.1 FM. You can email tips and comments to Jean at


  1. Mifepristone has been used by desperate women for some 20 years, after securing FDA approval. It can only be used during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. It has NEVER been available OTC. Mifepristone can only be prescribed by a health care provider — and the provider has to meet certain qualifications and be certified under the Mifepristone REMS Program. So it’s ludicrous for some lawmakers to claim that this drug prohibition, much like the ill-fated alcohol prohibition of 1920. However, desperate women WILL resort to more dangerous methods, including drinking herbal teas like pennyroyal, to end an ectopic or other untenable pregnancy. And now, with a truly mind-bogglingly inept male Florida legislator, who made it illegal for kids in Florida under age 11 to discuss their menstrual periods, we can only conclude that there is a full-on Republican war on girls and women.

  2. No question there is a war on girls and women from not allowing them to make their own health care decisions to failure to pay equal wages for comparable work. I am afraid that Washington state and Seattle do not rate well in bridging the gender wage gap. It seemed there were the right moves (paid parental leave etc.s) before the pandemic came along, but then momentum stalled and even went in reverse.

  3. Jean, I truly believe that the scorn heaped upon LGBTQ kids — particularly trans kids and particularly in the depressing South — is related to the war on women and girls. Many, if not most, homeless kids and young adults identify as LGBTQ (statistics are hard to come by). But theirs are not the faces we see in stories about homelessness. And trans kids are particularly at risk …. in Florida, as you probably know, counselors cannot counsel kids about these gender and sexuality issues …. EVEN if the kids ask for them. And it’s even worse for LGBTQ kids of color. You might think, as I did, that school counselors are the last people troubled kids seek out. Not true, according to educators I asked in Florida; if the kids can’t talk to their parents, they turn to counselors for help. Or used to! Censoring teachers and children and women doesn’t eliminate the problems they face, it just creates more trauma.

  4. Seattle and Washington state are far more humane than Florida and Texas, I must say … there ARE resources for kids who are in foster care, or facing homelessness, regardless of their gender identity. But I worry that the solutions and the proposed housing for homeless populations doesn’t address the young people who are homeless. They are simply not safe out there. It’s why LGBTQ Juveniles and young adults tend to melt into the shadows, to cling together.

  5. well, we all knew this was coming: a male judge in Texas, Matthew Kacsmaryk, says he will suspend the two-decade FDA approval of the so-called abortion.
    Thank God for the more enlightened federal judge in Washington, who ruled (according to CNN) “that the FDA must keep medication abortion drugs available in at lease 12 liberal states that sued the FDA to make the abortion pills.”

    This is the war on women and girls that the Republicans have been planning for so long…taking a stunning new twist.


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