By Dan Whitcomb and Steve Gorman
(Reuters) -Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon on Friday signed into law a bill outlawing the use or prescription of medication abortion pills that was passed by the state’s Republican-controlled legislature earlier this month.
Gordon, a Republican, signed the law as a federal judge in Texas considers ordering a nationwide ban on the abortion pill mifepristone in response to a lawsuit by anti-abortion groups.
The crux of the two-page Wyoming bill is a provision making it illegal to “prescribe, dispense, distribute, sell or use any drug for the purpose of procuring or performing an abortion.”
So-called “morning-after” pills, prescription contraceptive medication used after sex but before a pregnancy can be confirmed, are exempted from the ban.
The measure also includes an exemption for any treatment necessary to protect a woman “from an imminent peril that substantially endangers her life or health,” as well as any treatment of a “natural miscarriage according to currently accepted medical guidelines.”
Violation of the ban is to be treated as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $9,000.
The measure stipulates that a woman “upon whom a chemical abortion is performed or attempted shall not be criminally prosecuted.”
The governor said he was also allowing enactment, without his signature, of a separate bill passed by state lawmakers to prohibit conventional abortion procedures except when necessary to protect the health and life of the mother, or in case of rape or incest.
Exception is also permitted to end a pregnancy if doctors determine there to be a lethal abnormality of the fetus.
Legal fights over abortion rights have ramped up in the United States following a Supreme Court ruling last year that overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing the procedure.
Gordon acknowledged that abortion rights proponents who have already challenged Wyoming’s “trigger” abortion ban that went into effect after the Roe v. Wade decision have filed suit to block the newly passed Wyoming ban preemptively.
The governor expressed concern that enactment of the new abortion ban could muddy the legal waters, creating a new obstacle to swift resolution of the matter by the courts.
(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; additional reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Eric Beech)