Last week, the Senate Labor Committee voted to support Senate File 97, “Born alive-infant means of care.” The bill closes a loophole in Wyoming Statute 35-6-104 requiring that infants who survive an abortion be given the full protection of law.
The loophole permits an abortionist to satisfy the letter of the law by providing “comfort care.” This means that instead of placing the child in a life-saving, oxygen-rich incubator, it can simply be wrapped in a blanket and left to die.
Earlier in the week, the House Judiciary Committee also advanced HB 197, “Abortion 48-hour waiting period,” to be considered in the House. This bill is designed to relieve a patient from time pressure after she has signed the informed-consent forms.
Both hearings were well-attended. Newcomers to the legislative process shared the room with veteran testifiers. Three veterans, in particular, gave testimony that should be heard by all.
In both hearings, a lobbyist from the Wyoming Medical Society (WMS) began by declaring that the society does not take a stand on abortion, either for or against. Nevertheless, she opposed both pro-life bills on the theory that they burden doctors with unnecessary state oversight.
In the House hearing, Rep. Mark Jennings, R-Sheridan, inquired if the WMS was also opposed to all the existing laws that place requirements on doctors. The lobbyist did not deny it. The following day, Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, asked, rhetorically, if the medical profession should be exempted from legislation altogether.
Dr. Rene Hinkle, co-founder of the Cheyenne Women’s Clinic, also spoke against HB 197. She made the stunning claim that viability, after which no child in Wyoming may be aborted, “is, right now, late 23 weeks.” Yet America only recently saw Ellie Schneider at the State of the Union address. She survived birth at 21 weeks, 6 days. How could a doctor who sits on Wyoming’s Board of Medicine not consider Ellie “viable” at birth?
The lobbyist representing NARAL Pro-Choice also spoke at both hearings. He interpreted Wyoming’s law prohibiting abortion after “viability” to mean that doctors “only are allowed to perform abortions up to 12 weeks of pregnancy.”
It is strange that the abortion rights lobbyist forswears abortion after 12 weeks, while an officer on Wyoming’s Board of Medicine thinks that “late 23 weeks” is perfectly legal. Clearly Wyoming’s “viability” test needs definition.
Hinkle’s opposition testimony to SF 97 was the most electrifying of the week. “As a physician in this state,” she said, “we do, sometimes, induce labor on a patient whose baby is not … uh … whose baby would be non-viable outside the uterus.”
Her self-correction of the verb-tense was striking. A baby that is viable now, in the womb, would be non-viable if removed from the uterus. That is like saying: Joe is perfectly viable on the beach. But would be non-viable if he were dumped in the ocean.
Hinkle went on, “However, (babies) do sometimes come out with breathing motions, and they do sometimes live for a few moments.” This is breathtaking! A Wyoming OBGYN testified that this is happening in Wyoming clinics.
Whatever the “breathing motions” indicate, Hinkle testified that “they do live.” This raises ghastly questions. How often is “sometimes”? How old might these children be? Who is present to advocate for their lives? Are all applicable laws being followed? How can we know? Does the state issue these babies birth certificates and death certificates?
These are not spontaneous miscarriages who die before delivery. These children are living in the womb, living through induced labor and alive afterward. The Wyoming Board of Medicine ought to be all over this. It should be able to assure every Wyoming citizen exactly what is happening in clinics across Wyoming and whether the law is being enforced.
Currently, Wyoming forbids elective abortion after viability. It forbids the direct termination of the child, whether before, during or after an abortion. And, if the child is born alive, it requires that she should receive the commonly accepted means of care (W.S. 35-6-102, 103 & 104).
Last week’s testimony suggested either that laws are being skirted, or that there is a gap between what most Wyomingites believe our laws mean and how the Board of Medicine interprets them. Two pro-choice witnesses interpreted the same law 98.8% differently. Wyomingites deserve better. They deserve laws that are objective and meaningful. And they deserve board appointees who do not hold positions more extreme than NARAL.
Dr. Rene Hinkle has been nominated to another term on the Board of Medicine and is currently awaiting confirmation in the Senate. The Senate should ask the governor for a better choice.