Case: Johnson v. State of Wyoming I

18732 | Wyoming state trial court

Filed Date: July 25, 2022

Case Ongoing

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

On July 25, 2022, Circle of Hope Health Care Services, Chelsea’s Fund, and other abortion activists and providers filed this lawsuit in a Wyoming state trial court for Teton County to challenge Wyoming's trigger abortion ban, H.B. 92 codified in Wyoming Statute Section 36-6-102. The trigger ban prohibited nearly all abortions and subjected any healthcare provider who assisted in an abortion to felony criminal prosecution. The lawsuit challenged the ban under the state Constitution's fundamental…

On July 25, 2022, Circle of Hope Health Care Services, Chelsea’s Fund, and other abortion activists and providers filed this lawsuit in a Wyoming state trial court for Teton County to challenge Wyoming's trigger abortion ban, H.B. 92 codified in Wyoming Statute Section 36-6-102. The trigger ban prohibited nearly all abortions and subjected any healthcare provider who assisted in an abortion to felony criminal prosecution. The lawsuit challenged the ban under the state Constitution's fundamental rights to equality, due process, uniform operation of the laws, family composition, privacy, bodily integrity, conscience, and access to health care. Represented by private counsel, Plaintiffs sought (1) a declaratory judgment stating that the Wyoming Criminal Abortion Ban was unconstitutional under the Wyoming Constitution and that the Act was therefore invalid and unenforceable, (2) a temporary restraining order and preliminary and permanent injunctions prohibiting the state from enforcing the Act with any respect to abortion, and (3) attorney’s fees and costs. This case was assigned to Judge Melissa M. Owens.

On July 27, 2022, the court temporarily blocked the trigger ban until a decision on the preliminary injunction was made. On August 10, 2022, the court granted the motion for preliminary injunction, restraining the state from enforcing the abortion ban as litigation continued. The court reasoned that a facial challenge was appropriate because the statute implicated protected conduct, specifically, a woman’s right to make a health care decision, and that the applications of the exceptions could be proven to be unconstitutionally vague. The court also mentioned that it was unclear how a physician could invoke important life and health exceptions under H.B. 92 when the “appropriate medical judgment” qualification was erased from the text. Because the balance of harms weighed in favor of Plaintiffs and the decision was in the public interest, the court granted the preliminary injunction.

On December 9, 2022 on Defendants' motion, the court certified questions of law to the Wyoming Supreme Court, asking whether H.B 92 violated the Wyoming Constitution, was unconstitutionally vague, and whether it violated Wyoming citizens’ right to privacy. The Wyoming Supreme Court declined to answer these questions on December 20, 2022, stating that it did not believe it could answer all twelve certified questions based on the limited factual record provided. 

On March 18, 2023, the Governor of Wyoming signed a new abortion ban into law, making abortion immediately illegal in the state of Wyoming. The governor also signed a ban on the use of medication abortion that was set to take effect on July 1, 2023. Foreseeing the issuance of a new abortion ban that would effectively override this lawsuit, the plaintiffs filed a new complaint on March 17, 2023 contesting the legality of the new ban. Information on the related case — Johnson v. State of Wyoming II — can be found on the Clearinghouse. Due to the new complaint, there is no reason to think this lawsuit is considered ongoing; however, no official closure or mootness of the case has been published. 

Summary Authors

Kathleen Lok (2/16/2023)

Kavitha Babu (3/14/2024)

Related Cases

Johnson v. State of Wyoming II, Wyoming state trial court (2023)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

18732

Docket

Johnson v. State of Wyoming

Wyoming state supreme court

Dec. 20, 2022

Dec. 20, 2022

Docket

18732

Complaint for Declaratory Judgment and Injunctive Relief

Johnson v. State of Wyoming

July 25, 2022

July 25, 2022

Complaint

18732

Order Granting Motion for Preliminary Injunction

Johnson v. State of Wyoming

Aug. 10, 2022

Aug. 10, 2022

Order/Opinion

18732

Certification Order

Johnson v. State of Wyoming

Nov. 30, 2022

Nov. 30, 2022

Order/Opinion

18732

Notice of Declination to Answer Certified Questions

Johnson v. State of Wyoming

Wyoming state supreme court

Dec. 20, 2022

Dec. 20, 2022

Order/Opinion

Docket

Last updated Aug. 30, 2023, 2:32 p.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

Case Details

State / Territory: Wyoming

Case Type(s):

Reproductive Issues

Key Dates

Filing Date: July 25, 2022

Case Ongoing: Yes

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

Circle of Hope Health Care Services (a non-profit medical clinic providing abortion services), Chelsea’s Fund (a non-profit providing funding for abortion services), and four abortion activists who reside in Teton County, Wyoming.

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

Non-profit NON-religious organization

Public Interest Lawyer: No

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: No

Class Action Outcome: Not sought

Defendants

State of Wyoming, State

Governor, State

Attorney General, State

Sheriff (Teton), County

Chief of Police (Jackson, Teton), City

Defendant Type(s):

Jurisdiction-wide

Facility Type(s):

Non-government non-profit

Case Details

Causes of Action:

State law

Available Documents:

Complaint (any)

Injunctive (or Injunctive-like) Relief

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order

Source of Relief:

Litigation

Content of Injunction:

Preliminary relief granted

Order Duration: 2022 - None

Issues

Reproductive rights:

Abortion

Complete abortion ban

Criminalization

Reproductive health care (including birth control, abortion, and others)