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Teri Billiot and her daughter, Alyssa Billiot, 17, participate in the March for Life on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020, down Capitol Avenue to the Wyoming Supreme Court building in downtown Cheyenne. Organizers estimated approximately 300 people attended the march. Nadav Soroker/Wyoming Tribune Eagle

CHEYENNE – Lucy Spiering, 14, along with several other teens, carried a bright blue banner with the words “Park County Teens For Life” emblazoned across it, for a half mile, from Cheyenne’s Depot Plaza to the Wyoming Supreme Court building.

“We believe that children need to be protected in the womb,” said Lucy, a member of Park County Teens for Life.

Lucy doesn’t think abortion should be legal, which it is in Wyoming and across the country.

That’s why she and her friends drove eight hours from Park County in northwest Wyoming to Cheyenne to participate in the annual Wyoming Right to Life March on Saturday. They marched alongside an estimated 300 other participants in the name of ending abortion.

“I’m not much of a marcher in general,” state Rep. Sue Wilson, R-Cheyenne, said. She decided to come out anyway to “speak up for babies that can’t talk for themselves,” and advocate for having “as few abortions as possible.”

Wilson said she supports abortion policies that include exceptions for rape or incest, “at this time,” but Randy Rhodes, the president of the Laramie County chapter of Right to Life, said he envisions a Wyoming without abortions — without exceptions.

“We want to see an end to abortion,” said Rhodes, who helped organize the march. Wyoming Right to Life’s mission focuses on educating the people of Wyoming about the “tragic consequences” of abortion, infanticide and embryonic stem cell research, among other things.

But abortion remained the major focus of Saturday’s event, as marchers carried signs with messages like “Adoption not abortion” and “Smile! Your mom chose life,” printed on them.

Miriam Maynard’s held a sign that read “God forgives,” as she marched alongside her 8-year-old daughter, Elizabeth. Her poster said “Pro-life. Pro-women. Pro-baby.”

“We love women just as much as we love unborn babies,” said Maynard, a stay-at-home mother of three. She said she wants abortion banned in Wyoming, except for in extreme circumstances, “like if the mother’s life were in danger.”

When Maynard and the other marchers made it to the steps of the state Supreme Court building, they stopped to listen to some of the event’s organizers.

How to “make abortion illegal in the state and in this country,” was the upshot of state Sen. Brian Boner’s speech at the rally.

Boner, R-Douglas, urged the crowd to “build a working relationship with your legislators,” as one strategy to outlaw abortion. In 2018, Boner introduced a bill that would have required physicians to issue certificates for “non-viable births,” or miscarried fetuses. It didn’t pass, and Boner insisted it wasn’t aimed at women getting abortions. Nonetheless, NARAL Pro-Choice Wyoming spoke out against the legislation, calling it “government overreach.”

Correcting the perceived overstepping of the high court was another focus of the rally.

“We’re here today because of an event that took place on Jan. 22, 1973,” said Bill Miller, a member of Wyoming Right to Life. On that date, the U.S. Supreme Court guaranteed a woman’s right to access an abortion. Shortly after the court issued its opinion, activists began organizing to place restrictions on abortion.

In 1974, the first national Right to Life march took place in Washington, D.C. On Friday, President Donald Trump spoke at the 47th annual national march, lauding the recent wave of anti-abortion policy initiatives.

“I think what we’re doing here today, and what our president did yesterday, will help us come to the realization that abortion is murder,” Miller said Saturday. “There is nothing wrong with being a one-dimensional voter,” he added, directing the crowd to “ask your legislators where they stand on abortion.”

Last year, a cadre of Republican-controlled state legislatures, including Missouri’s and Alabama’s, passed bills restricting access to abortion. The Wyoming Legislature also tried to pass a law that would create a 48-hour waiting period for women seeking abortions, but it failed to pass. Earlier this month, all three members of Wyoming’s congressional delegation signed a legal brief which urged the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. It is unclear if any state legislators intend to file abortion-related bills during the upcoming lawmaking session.

Women seeking an abortion in Wyoming face the following restrictions, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a think tank focused on reproductive health:

  • The parent of a minor must consent and be notified before an abortion is provided.
  • Public funding is available for abortion only in cases of life endangerment, rape or incest.
  • An abortion may be performed at or after viability only in cases of life endangerment or severely compromised health.

“The most important thing is understanding why women are having so many abortions,” Father Christopher Xantos, a priest at Holy Apostles Orthodox Christian Church, said. He not only wants to see lawmakers end abortion, but also expand access to social services, such as day care and health care, in an effort to eliminate the need for abortion in the first place.

“Are we doing enough to help women who are facing the most important decision in their life?” Xantos asked. “Are we there for them in their moment of need, or are we just trying to legislate morality?”

Kathryn Palmer is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s education reporter. She can be reached at kpalmer@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3167. Follow her on Twitter at @kathrynbpalmer.

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