'Trigger laws' on abortion temporarily blocked in Wyoming, North Dakota

The laws were set to go into effect this week.

July 28, 2022, 2:06 PM

"Trigger laws" that would place a near-total ban on abortion were temporarily blocked in Wyoming and North Dakota on Wednesday, just as they were to go into effect.

Both states are among more than a dozen that had passed laws that would enact bans on abortion should Roe v. Wade be overturned.

Wyoming's law bans abortion in all circumstances except rape, incest or if the mother is in serious risk of death or injury. It briefly went into effect on Wednesday, until a Teton County judge shortly issued a temporary restraining order blocking it.

The order is in response to a lawsuit that argues the law violates rights guaranteed by the state's constitution -- a claim the state has contested.

Wellspring Health Access, a national abortion rights organization that is building a full-service abortion clinic in Casper, is among those suing the state. Its founder and president, Julie Burkhart, called Wednesday's ruling a "temporary victory."

"If allowed to take effect, the abortion ‘trigger ban’ that was temporarily blocked today would severely restrict Wyomingites’ freedom to make decisions about their own bodies," Burkhart said in a statement. "We will continue our efforts to ensure that Wyoming residents maintain their fundamental, constitutionally protected right to make their own health care decisions."

Burkhart's clinic was set to open last month until an arson fire in May delayed the launch for several months.

Wyoming Attorney General Bridget Hill's office told ABC News that Hill has no comment on pending litigation.

With the ban blocked, abortions in Wyoming are still legal up to the point of viability, or around 24 weeks into pregnancy.

PHOTO: Demonstrators protest outside of the U.S. Supreme Court, May 3, 2022 in Washington.
In this May 3, 2022, file photo, demonstrators protest outside of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., following news report by Politico that a draft opinion suggests the justices could be poised to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion nationwide.
Alex Brandon/AP, FILE

Meanwhile, North Dakota's trigger law, which would similarly ban abortion except in the cases of rape, incest or the life of the mother, was set to go into effect on Thursday. A state district court judge granted a temporary restraining order against the law on Wednesday, barring it from taking effect.

In its ruling, the court stated that the state attorney general "prematurely attempted to executive the triggering language" before the U.S. Supreme Court issued its certified judgment overturning Roe v. Wade -- which the high court did on Wednesday.

The order is in response to a lawsuit brought forth by the Red River Women's Clinic, the state's lone abortion provider, which claimed the ban violates the state constitution.

"We're relieved that a North Dakota state court has blocked its devastating trigger ban for now," Meetra Mehdizadeh, staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights, which filed the lawsuit, said in a statement. "If allowed to go into effect, this near-total abortion ban would close the state's sole abortion clinic, leaving North Dakotans with no clinic within the state to turn for essential health care."

North Dakota Attorney General Drew Rigley told ABC News that his office took steps "within an hour" of the court's decision to issue the certification for the law, which he said is now slated to go into effect on Aug. 26 based on the U.S. Supreme Court's certified judgment.

The block allows Red River Women's Clinic, which is relocating to Minnesota in the wake of Roe being overturned, to provide abortion care while the case proceeds.

Abortions in North Dakota are still legal up until 20 weeks into a pregnancy.

Several other states, including Kentucky, Louisiana and Utah, have had trigger laws temporarily blocked amid lawsuits.

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