Wyoming has taken the battle against the use of pills for abortion to another level, becoming the first state to enact a specific ban. The legislation, signed into law Friday by Republican Gov. Mark Gordon, decrees it "unlawful to prescribe, dispense, distribute, sell or use any drug for the purpose of procuring or performing an abortion," the Washington Post reports. People who take the pills, which is permissible to treat "natural miscarriages," will not face criminal prosecution. But the law provides for penalties for doctors or others found to have broken the new law of up to six months' imprisonment and a fine of as much as $9,000.
Also on Friday, Gordon said he was allowing a near-total ban on abortion to take effect Sunday without his signature. That law makes providing an abortion a felony, per the New York Times. "I have acted without bias and after extensive prayer, to allow these bills to become law," the governor said in a letter released on Friday night. Abortion providers are considering court challenges. "We are dismayed and outraged that these laws would eradicate access to basic health care, including safe, effective medication abortion," Julie Burkhart of Wellspring Health Access in Caspar said in a statement Saturday, per the AP.
About half of US abortions are induced by medication. Use of the pills is prohibited or restricted in 28 states, but Wyoming's is the first explicit ban. The law doesn't name any of the drugs because doctors testified that some of them have a variety of other uses, including helping facilitate childbirth. And Republican supporters said the law could be circumvented by changing the names of the drugs. Gordon called for a referendum on abortion. "I believe this question needs to be decided as soon as possible so that the issue of abortion in Wyoming can be finally resolved," he said, "and that is best done with a vote of the people." (Read more abortion debate stories.)