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Sebastian's Point

Sebastian's Point is a weekly column written by one of our members regarding timely events or analysis of relevant ideas, which impact the Culture of Life. All regular members are invited to submit a column for publication at soss.submissions@gmail.com. Columns should be between 800 to 1300 words and comply with the high standards expected in academic writing, including proper citations of authority or assertions referred to in your column. Please see, Submission Requirements for more details.

Closing Abortion Loopholes and Minimizing its Financiers

Michael Leman 

Legislative Liaison 

Diocese of Cheyenne | 17 August 2023

 

Two years ago, the Wyoming Legislature passed a trigger bill that would have technically outlawed abortion in the state if the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. That law was enjoined by a judge in the 9th District Court in Teton County. This year, the legislature passed another abortion ban, which sought to define terms and dispel some of the questions in the challenge against the previous trigger bill. For example, the new bill includes language that differentiates between an abortion and treating an ectopic pregnancy. The final bill did allow for a rape and incest exception, which was lamentable. But many legislators believed that those exceptions were the only way the bill would pass.

 

On a positive note, the rape and incest exceptions did attempt to make one important change to Wyoming law by requiring a report to law enforcement be made and a copy of the report be received by the abortion provider prior to the provider being able to legally perform an abortion. This change would have closed a significant loophole in Wyoming law, as every existing abortion prohibition in statute – including the prohibition of late-term abortions and prohibitions against the use of taxpayer dollars for abortions – can be circumvented simply by a woman or her guardian telling an abortion provider that the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. “Rape” or “Incest” have been code words for legal circumvention of abortion prohibitions, with no need for a conviction, a trial, an investigation, or even a police report. We will have to wait to see how the legal battle plays out in court.

 

Before I share my thoughts about strategy moving forward in Wyoming, I want to offer a word of caution. In an environment with so much anger and division, coupled with a lack of awareness about the importance of mental health care, Christians, and other people of goodwill must exercise prudence. First, as Christians, we should understand that violence begets violence. That alone should be enough to temper the way we speak about difficult topics like abortion, and because we are working in coalitions with others, we also need to recognize that when violence toward people or destruction of property is committed by anyone who is anti-abortion, our cause – the full, legal protection of the preborn – is undermined. In Wyoming, we see the political capital that was gained by those who support abortion after a young woman set fire to an abortion facility in Casper. The details of that case are still coming out, but public perception has already been influenced. Mindful of that, we must ensure that the way we speak reflects the human dignity of others – especially those who we believe are misinformed about abortion. This is not news to members of the Society of St. Sebastian, but you will understand why I make note of this principle as you continue reading.

 

One of the most popular arguments for legal abortion in Wyoming appeals to the libertarian belief that the government should stay out of people’s personal lives and that people should be free to live how they see fit if they aren’t hindering or hurting the lives of others. For us who clearly see how abortion violates this conditional rule, the argument is mindboggling. We may be tempted to point out, again and again, what we believe is so obvious. I understand, but I believe that a more effective, short-term strategy in Wyoming will be to utilize the energy behind the libertarian movement and put forward legislation that actualizes the prohibition of public money being used for abortions and to ensure that “rape” and “incest” exceptions are not automatic trump cards for new and existing prohibitions.

 

Admittedly, this feels like a major concession considering the hopes many of us had immediately following the Dobbs decision. Even in Wyoming, the fact is the general population has not spent a fraction of the time our legislature has considering the realities of abortion. We still have reason to hope for full legal protection of every preborn child, but it will likely take longer than we thought to get there. In the meantime, I think we can take small steps toward that end.

 

Once the gaping loopholes currently in Wyoming law are pointed out, it doesn’t require much imagination for Wyoming taxpayers to conclude that our tax dollars have been (for the last 50 years) and are now being used to pay for abortions in Wyoming. This realization will inevitably make people angry, and that’s why we need to be extremely careful when choosing our words. Our goal should not be to insight more anger, but to motivate more people to have hard, honest conversations about abortion laws in Wyoming with their families, communities, and legislators.   

 

While taking the smaller step of closing these loopholes will not bring us to our ultimate goal, I believe doing so will be an important stepping stone. For years, we have heard, “Don’t like abortion? Then don’t have one.” It’s time for pro-lifers to respond with our own version, “Like abortion? Then you get to pay for it.” Wyoming government should not be using our taxes to fund it.  

 

Nothing inspires a demand for transparency like a perceived increase in cost for consumers. I think that is true when it comes to consumers of material goods, and it will also be true when it comes to consumers of abortion. If we can decrease the number of abortion financiers by ensuring that only those who want abortion to be legal have to carry its burden, maybe its casual supporters will finally take a more serious look at what abortion does and who it’s doing it to. Furthermore, culpability becomes a lot more serious when fewer people are tasked with bearing it.        

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