By Tom Lacock
Wyoming Medical Society
Three bills dealing with abortion have passed the Wyoming House of Representatives with votes today. The bills were introduced to the House Committee of the Whole on Wednesday and featured lively debate before the more traditional and subdued debate on second reading yesterday morning.
House Bill 250, brought by Rep. Sue Wilson (R-Cheyenne) amends penalties for a physician who didn’t report an abortion from $100 to $500 with rules suggesting those who knowingly make false statements on such reporting eligible for fines of $500 and six months of imprisonment. The bill also offers that those who knowingly purchase or sell a part of any human fetal or embryonic organs or parts for research of commercial use commits a felony of no less than four years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine or both.
House Bill 182 passed with a vote of 41-17 and would require a physician offer a pregnant woman seeking an abortion an ultrasound of the fetus, or the opportunity to hear a fetal heartbeat prior to an abortion being performed. The offer would need to be made orally and in-person by the physician. The bill was sponsored by Casper’s Rep. Chuck Gray (R-Casper). An amendment was added to the bill this week which would remove the 24-hour waiting period between when an ultrasound would be offered and when an abortion could be performed.
“This helps to ensure a woman’s decision is informed,” Gray said Wednesday. “We simply want to offer the option for an ultrasound or to hear the heartbeat. The woman remains independent in their decision.”
Rep. Charles Pelkey (D-Laramie) argued that men have no business being a part of an abortion decision, saying, “This bill brings the Legislature into the exam room when a woman has one of the most trying times in a woman’s life. I don’t think the legislature has any business being a part of it.”
Two amendments were brought by House Labor, Health and Social Services Committee Chair Eric Barlow (R-Campbell County) on Friday. One would have made a wording change from allowing abortions to be performed in an medical emergency to allowing medically indicated abortion. That was defeated. However, the second piece of his bill removed the need for a physician to inform a pregnant woman she has the right to view an active ultrasound of the unborn child and hear the heartbeat of an unborn child orally and in-person.
House Bill 116 would insert fetal pain into the definition of viability and prohibit the sale or transfer of any aborted child or cells or tissue from an aborted child for experimentation. Those who break the law would be subject to felony charges and a $10,000 fine. The bill passed the House by a vote of 48-11.
Debate centered on when a fetus can feel pain, which is a subject the medical community does not agree upon. For that reason, an amendment removed lines which described stage of human development when an embryo or fetus was able to feel pain or to live by natural or life-supportive systems outside of the womb of the mother according to appropriate medical judgement.
“This is something this body should be cautious about,” Eric Barlow (R-Campbell County) said. “I would request we think hard in what medical opinion is. There was testimony irrespective of who was for or against this bill that shows a variety of opinions on feeling pain. This is going farther than this body is willing to go.”
Other lawmakers agreed with Barlow, suggesting they could support the bill’s intent, but only if the definition of fetal pain was removed.
The bills will likely be heard for the third time tomorrow by the House at which point the bills would move over to the Senate for three hearings before being sent to the Governor’s desk.