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Anti-abortion politicians, minus Chuck Gray, appeal judge’s decision keeping them on sidelines

Lawmakers and an anti-abortion group blocked from joining Wyoming’s abortion ban case have appealed the decision to the state supreme court.

Chuck Gray, Secretary of State (Dan Cepeda, Oil City News)

by Madelyn Beck, WyoFile

Wyoming lawmakers and an anti-abortion group are appealing a lower court decision that denied them direct participation in a case involving the state’s abortion bans.

That trio includes Reps. Chip Neiman (R-Hulett) and Rachel Rodriguez-Williams (R-Cody) and Right to Life of Wyoming. In June, 9th District Court Judge Melissa Owens denied their request to intervene in the abortion ban suit, finding that their goal was the same as the attorney general’s — protect the state’s two bans — and that they didn’t have a direct, substantial, protectable interest in the case.

The group disagrees.

“Our clients have a clear interest in defending that law, which safeguards the lives of unborn children and the well-being of their mothers,” said Tim Garrison of Alliance Defending Freedom, the conservative Christian legal group representing the intervenors. “We will urge the Wyoming Supreme Court to allow them to help defend Wyoming’s duly enacted law.”

While he joined the others in requesting to intervene earlier this year, Secretary of State Chuck Gray is not part of the appeal. Taking a jab at the “unelected” attorney general, he said via email she is “more focused on attacking the right to intervene than vigorously defending the right to human life.”

With so many people involved, Gray said he also “did not want to detract from the issues on appeal. We discussed all avenues concerning action moving forward, and mutually decided that the appeal should proceed in this way.”

Both the state, which is defending Wyoming’s abortion bans, and plaintiffs seeking to overturn them argued the intervenors shouldn’t be allowed. Specifically when it came to Gray, the state wrote, “In his official capacity, Secretary of State Gray cannot intervene in this case unless a Wyoming statute authorizes him to do so.”

Déjà vu

It’s no surprise this group of potential intervenors has appealed Judge Owen’s decision to the state supreme court: They’ve done it before.

The group of three had tried to intervene in a suit over the state’s “trigger bill” abortion ban, which went into effect after Roe v. Wade was overturned last year.

Owens denied that first request to intervene, and then the group appealed her decision to the state supreme court. That appeal was docketed, but didn’t make it far.

That’s because one of the bills passed by legislators this year included a near-total abortion ban that effectively replaced the old ban. That left the old lawsuit and the intervenors’ appeal moot. Lawmakers also passed a separate ban on medication abortions this year, which carried different penalties.

Gov. Mark Gordon signed the medication abortion ban, simply letting the other near-total ban go into law without his signature. Gordon noted that it would also likely be tied up in court, facing the same allegations of unconstitutionality as the previous ban.

Owens has halted enforcement of both bans while the court cases proceed, leaving most abortions legal in Wyoming.

This article was originally published by WyoFile and is republished here with permission. WyoFile is an independent nonprofit news organization focused on Wyoming people, places and policy.