Public opinion in Wyoming on abortion hasn’t changed much over the past two decades, according to a recent University of Wyoming survey.
In an October poll, surveyors found that 36% of respondents view abortion as a matter of personal choice, while 36% said abortion is acceptable in cases of rape, incest or if the mother’s life is threatened.
Another 19% of respondents said they would support abortion if a reason for the procedure was clearly established, and 7% said abortion should be banned outright.
According to Dr. Jim King, a political science professor at the university and the survey’s director, these results practically mirror those from 20 years ago.
The 2002 survey results showed that 39% of respondents considered abortion to be a matter of personal choice, 33% favored exceptions for rape and incest and 11% wanted a total ban on abortion.
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When taking into account the margins of error in each survey, the results show no change in opinion on abortion over the last two decades.
The results are divided along partisan lines. Roughly 88% of Democrats surveyed in the sample said abortion should be a matter of personal choice. Only 20% of Republicans, on the other hand, held this view.
About 48% of Republicans, however, supported allowing abortion in cases of rape or incest, or if the mother’s life is in danger. Another 20% said abortion might be allowable if a “need could be established.”
The U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade returned the question of abortion’s legality to states and their elected officials after it had been protected federally for nearly 50 years.
According to the poll, which included a statewide telephone survey of 524 Wyomingites with follow-up interviews conducted after the midterm elections, the matter of abortion did have somewhat of an impact on voters’ choice this year between the candidates for Wyoming’s lone U.S. House seat — Republican Harriet Hageman and Democrat Lynnette Grey Bull.
A vast majority of Democrats considered abortion to be a personal matter and cast their votes for Grey Bull. About 29% of pro-choice Republicans and 88% of pro-choice independents also voted for the Democratic nominee. Respondents who held other views on abortion mostly supported Hageman.
The abortion question didn’t seem to have much impact on the election for governor, according to the survey. A majority of respondents within the different positions on abortion favored incumbent Republican Gov. Mark Gordon, who signed Wyoming’s trigger abortion ban into law, over Democrat Theresa Livingston.
Wyoming’s trigger abortion ban, sponsored by Cody Republican Rep. Rachel Rodriguez-Williams, went into effect briefly following the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade over the summer.
A Teton County judge, however, blocked enforcement of the ban after a group of Wyoming providers, a Wyoming abortion fund and Wyoming women brought forward a lawsuit contesting the ban’s constitutionality. That block will stay in place for the duration of the lawsuit.
In August, Right to Life Wyoming, Rodriguez-Williams and co-sponsor of the abortion trigger bill Rep. Chip Neiman, R-Hulett, filed a motion requesting to join the lawsuit as intervenors and make additional arguments in favor of the ban. The judge presiding over the case has yet to make a decision on whether or not to grant their motion.
The ban would make all abortion illegal in the state, except in cases of rape or incest, or if the mother’s life is in danger.
The amendment to add those exemptions barely passed. Some lawmakers and activists have said they aim to nix some of those exceptions in the upcoming Legislative session.
Rodriguez-Williams reiterated in a September interview with the Star-Tribune her belief that “every child in the womb is valuable regardless of how the child is conceived.”
“I believe that the exception does need to be removed,” she said.
When the Star-Tribune spoke with Rodriguez-Williams in September, she said that it was “too early to tell” if or what kind of abortion-related legislation might be sponsored for the upcoming Legislative session. Rodriguez-Williams didn’t immediately respond to the Star-Tribune to say if she knows of any changes around this.
Neiman told the Star-Tribune on Wednesday that he plans to bring back the Human Life Protection Act, a bill he sponsored as a freshman lawmaker last year that aimed to restrict funding for abortions and further limit when a minor can get the procedure. (Neiman said there could be some changes to the bill as it was originally written.) The bill wasn’t received for introduction into the House last session.
Sen. Tim Salazar, R-Riverton, also told the Star-Tribune on Wednesday that he plans to bring back a bill he sponsored last session that aimed to make the manufacture and sale of chemical abortion drugs illegal. That bill cleared the Senate but wasn’t introduced in the House.
As of Wednesday, there hadn’t yet been any abortion-related draft bills published on the Legislative Service Office’s website.
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