Rod Miller: The Trigger Law Against the Wyoming Constitution

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By Rod Miller, columnist

When the United States Supreme Court ruled on abortion in its recent Roe decision and handed out that hot potato to the states, the ball landed squarely in Wyoming’s hands. And that’s exactly where the people of Wyoming should want it.

We make our own decisions about ourselves here in The Big Empty, thank you very much.

Wyoming’s forward-thinking legislature read the political tea leaves to predict—or was convinced by outside political forces—that SCOTUS would indeed return to Roe during his current term, and Wyoming, like several other states, passed a “triggering law”.

HB92, which prohibits abortions in Wyoming with few exceptions, was passed by the legislature and signed by the governor in the last budget session.

The new pro-life law must be certified by the Attorney General, and this process has already begun. Once certified, it will become statutorily illegal in the state of Wyoming for a woman to have an abortion. In fact, abortion will become a crime.

But the Wyoming legislature, in its pro-life zeal, has painted itself into a corner when it comes to the Wyoming Constitution.

Flashback to 2012 when Wyoming, furious at the overreach of the Affordable Care Act — with its mandatory attendance and death signs — wanted to block Obama’s old wazoo. So we passed an amendment to our Constitution guaranteeing the citizens of Wyoming the freedom to make their own health care decisions.

Take that, Obama!

Here is that amendment, incorporated into the “Bill of Rights” section of the Wyoming Constitution:

“Article 1, para. 38. Right of access to health care. (a) Every capable adult has the right to make their own health care decisions. (emphasis mine) The parent, guardian or legal representative of any other natural person has the right to make health care decisions for that person. (b) Any person may pay, and a health care provider may accept, direct payment for health care without the imposition of penalties or fines for doing so. (c) The Legislature may determine reasonable and necessary limitations on the rights granted under this section to protect the health and general welfare of the people or to accomplish the other purposes set forth in the Constitution of Wyoming. SECTION 2 — 10 — (d) The State of Wyoming will act to preserve these rights from undue governmental interference.

In this same context, it is important to remember that just a few years before the successful passage of this amendment, there was another attempt to amend our Wyoming constitution to do the exact opposite. A 1994 ballot initiative by the pro-life faction succeeded in placing an anti-choice amendment before voters. The amendment was defeated by an overwhelming majority, receiving less than 40% of the votes cast.

At first glance, it would appear that the legislature passed a law that is in direct contradiction to our constitution. For HB92 to be certified, the language of Section 1, Sec. 38, “Every capable adult has the right to make their own health care decisions” should be ignored.

This contradiction will create a legal donnybrook in our courts that will likely keep the abortion issue waiting a year or two for a final resolution as the courts wrestle with the fundamental determination of who has what rights under Wyoming law.

If the decision is motivated by religious dogma, the amendment’s waffle language that allows lawmakers to impose “reasonable and necessary restrictions on the rights granted” will be seized upon to amend “Every competent adult…” to exclude women pregnant to do their homework. own health care decisions.

Or pro-life policymakers could simply argue that abortion is not a health care issue, but rather a matter of religion, water regulation or tax policy… anything but a Wyoming woman taking decisions about his own body. I predict that arguments in the halls of power will become very creative. And ecumenical.

But to do so would circumvent the clause in Article 1, Sec.2 which states that “all members of the human race are equal”.

Trigger law or not, don’t expect the abortion issue to be definitively settled anytime soon. But, when the decision is made, it will be OUR decision and not imposed by someone else.

We must therefore take this responsibility very seriously because we will ultimately decide who will enjoy full and equal citizenship in the State of Equality, just as our Constitution promises.

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