Roe v. Wade reversal brings uncertainty in states with “trigger” laws
▶ Watch Video: “Trigger laws” halt abortion access in several states
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade means that abortions won’t be available in many conservative states which had already passed so-called “trigger” laws banning the procedure. Among those is Wyoming.
“It’s really easy to say you will never have an abortion, until you find yourself in the impossible situation where you need one,” Riata Walker told CBS News.
In January 2020, Walker discovered that her 20-week-old fetus had severe heart defects and chromosomal complications. Had she brought the fetus to term, doctors said it would not have survived.
So Walker and her husband drove more than four hours from their home in Casper, Wyoming, to a hospital in Denver.
“We had to terminate a pregnancy for medical reasons, for a daughter we desperately wanted,” Walker said. “You don’t know what choices you would make until you’re in that situation, and it’s really easy in a hypothetical to say I’d never choose that.”
In March, Wyoming’s Republican-controlled legislature enacted the trigger law which will soon take effect in the wake of Friday’s ruling. Wyoming’s law makes exceptions for cases of sexual assault, incest and the physical health of the mother.
Wyoming is one of 13 states which passed such trigger laws.
“I call on everyone, no matter how deeply they care about this decision, to keep all protests peaceful, peaceful, peaceful, peaceful, no intimidation, violence is never acceptable,” President Joe Biden told the nation Friday following the Supreme Court’s decision. “Threats and intimidation are not speech.”
But intimidation may have already come. A women’s health clinic in Casper, which was preparing to open this month, would have been the only one in Wyoming offering surgical abortions. However, on May 25, the clinic was attacked by a suspected arsonist. Security camera footage showed a middle-of-the-night intruder carrying a gas can and setting the clinic ablaze. It suffered significant fire damage.
The nonprofit group Wellspring Health Access is now rebuilding the clinic.
“Do I want to be here, talking about someone who committed an act of domestic terrorism in our building?” Julie Burkhart, president of Wellspring Health Access, said. “Absolutely not. I wanted to be moving furniture in.”
Opposition to abortion rights in Wyoming has been fervent, with demonstrators gathering to protest outside the clinic weekly.
“We’ve prayed that, some way, the Lord would prevent this place from opening,” anti-abortion activist Mike Pyatt said. “So if it happens to be vandalism and a fire, I’m good with that.”
“The hatred, especially from that side, that I have witnessed, is extreme and it’s cruel,” Walker said. “We’re all human beings, and we’re all trying to do the right thing.”
For Walker that meant a deeply painful, personal decision.
“You come out of this whole experience with this stigma attached to you that you had an abortion, and you’re also a grieving mom,” Walker said.
Walker and her husband gave birth to a son, Philip, in January 2021.
Meanwhile, no arrests have yet been made in the fire at the Casper clinic. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.