A plea for a law to protect unborn children in Wyoming has failed to save a controversial bill that would have made Wyoming's abortion law the most restrictive in the nation.
The House Judiciary Committee on Monday voted 5-4 against the measure despite arguments by Rep. Dick Honaker, D-Rock Springs, the bill's primary sponsor, that such a vote would send the wrong message about Wyoming."If we walk away from this bill, you are saying that in Wyoming, it is OK to kill these children," he said. "You are saying that their lives have not reached the point where the law of Wyoming will protect them."
One amendment would have moved the bill closer to a less restrictive version adopted in Utah last week. The amendment would have made abortion legal in cases where the child might have been born with mental or physical defects that would have made its survival unlikely.
But that amendment, as well as others that would have eliminated both the reporting period requirement for rape or incest victims and a statement that the Legislature determined life begins at conception, were killed in 5-4 votes cast along the same lines that killed the bill.
But members of the committee instead sided with arguments that the measure is too restrictive as they voted to indefinitely lay the bill back, meaning it will probably not reach the House floor for debate.
"I think it is too much, too soon, too stern, too unforgiving," said Rep. Carroll Miller, R-Shell.
The vote capped debate that surrounded the "Human Life Protection Act" from the time it was introduced by Honaker.
Several days after Honaker and his cosponsors outlined the bill to reporters, a House faction opposed to the measure held their own news conference to condemn the bill as being contrary to the value placed on individual rights in Wyoming.
Rallies, pro and con, were held at the Statehouse in the days that followed, and groups organized around the state to either support or fight the measure.
Gov. Mike Sullivan, a Democrat, said as recently as last Friday that he would look favorably upon the bill if it reached his desk.
As drafted, the bill would have outlawed abortions except in cases where a mother's health was in jeopardy or in cases of rape or incest. In the latter two instances, a woman would have had to report the crime within five days after she was able to be eligible for an abortion.
Doctors who performed abortions otherwise could be convicted of a felony, punishable by 14 years in prison.
The measure died after only brief comments by both Honaker and Miller and after several attempts to amend the bill to address concerns raised during a five-hour public hearing on the measure held Friday.