CASPER — All three members of Wyoming’s delegation in Washington have signed on to an amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to consider overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court case protecting the right to have an abortion without excessive restriction from the government.
Filed with the Supreme Court on Thursday, the brief — which included 39 Republican senators and 168 representatives, only two of whom are Democrats — argues that the ruling’s criteria for what qualifies as an “undue burden” on abortion access are unworkable, focusing on several cases in lower courts where the judicial branch has backed away from the broad provisions of Roe v. Wade.
“These incessant retrenchments show that Roe has been substantially undermined by subsequent authority, a principal factor the Court considers when deciding whether to overrule precedent,” the brief argues. “Casey (a 1990s case in which the Roe v. Wade ruling was upheld) clearly did not settle the abortion issue, and it is time for the Court to take it up again.”
“Senator Enzi has maintained a consistent pro-life record throughout his political career,” Max D’Onofrio, a spokesman in Enzi’s office, said in a statement. “Signing this brief is consistent with his work to safeguard the sanctity of human life. He signed it with more than 200 of his colleagues, so hopefully the court will consider it. Ultimately what the court does with it is up to the court.”
None of the three lawmakers’ positions against abortion are new. Throughout their careers, all three lawmakers have been consistent voters against abortion rights and, as recently as this summer, each lawmaker joined in efforts within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to eliminate a “hidden surcharge” created under the Affordable Care Act to fund elective abortion services.
“Senator Barrasso is pro-life,” his spokeswoman, Laura Mengelkamp, said in a statement. “In the Wyoming Legislature and in the United States Senate, he supports policies, including this amicus brief, that protect unborn children.”
Cheney has also been an outspoken supporter of pro-life legislation in recent months, going as far as telling House Democrats in an April news conference that “you cannot be for the people if you cannot protect the babies,” a statement made in relation to a bill that would institute penalties and jail time for health care practitioners who don’t provide medical care following an abortion procedure that results in a child being born alive.
“Representative Cheney is and has always been pro-life,” Jeremy Adler, a Cheney spokesperson, said in an email. “She will always stand up for the rights of the unborn and fight to protect every human life. That’s why she proudly joined 206 of her colleagues in the House and Senate from across party lines to sign this amicus brief.”
While the brief’s signees consisted primarily of GOP lawmakers, there were some defectors: More than two dozen Republican representatives and 13 Republican senators — including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — were absent from the brief.
Though access to abortion remains popular among Americans — roughly three-quarters of Americans supported upholding Roe v. Wade in a June NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll — a consensus on abortion access remains elusive in many states. The Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Survey found Wyoming remained almost perfectly divided on the subject.
Wyoming — despite being one of the most conservative states in the country — has remained largely resistant to regulations on abortion over the years, with several other states maintaining restrictions on abortion much stiffer than those in Wyoming.
That resistance seems to have shifted in recent sessions, even though abortion procedures in-state are already inaccessible to 96% of women living here, according to the reproductive health nongovernmental organization the Guttmacher Institute.
While a majority of Americans oppose strict limitations on abortions — a procedure primarily accessed by low-income women of color — Wyoming has passed or considered several laws pertaining to abortion access in recent years, including a successful bill last year requiring medical providers to report information about abortions they perform.
Other proposals last year, including a 48-hour waiting period for abortions and a misdemeanor offense for practitioners failing to report an abortion procedure, failed to gain traction.
The Wyoming pro-life movement’s biggest victory came in 2017 when then-Gov. Matt Mead signed a law requiring doctors to tell women seeking abortions they’re entitled to see an ultrasound of the fetus beforehand and another that prohibited the use of tissue from aborted fetuses for experimentation.
Both of those bills passed the House and Senate by wide margins. However, pro-life legislation — and those who introduce it — is not without its critics.
“The decision to have an abortion is personal, private and best left to an individual, their family and their doctor,” ACLU Wyoming wrote in a statement on its Facebook page. “By choosing to sign on to this brief, Senator Barasso, Senator Enzi and Representative Cheney are telling Wyomingites that they think politicians should have a say in private medical decisions.”