CASPER, Wyo. —The majority of the members of the Wyoming House of Representatives don’t want the University of Wyoming or community colleges to offer health insurance to students that covers elective abortions if colleges are to receive state funding, based on their first reading vote on House Bill 253.
After Monday’s first reading vote, House Minority Floor Leader Cathy Connolly (Albany County) offered an amendment to the bill that would require UW and community colleges to provide “long-acting reversible contraceptives to all students who request such contraception,” in order to receive state funding.
“I think there is something we can all agree on and it might not be abortion,” Connolly said. “We would like to take care of pregnant women, have healthy pregnancies and healthy children and also to prevent unintended pregnancies. That’s how you have fewer abortions.”
Rep. Chuck Gray expressed opposition to the amendment: “This is not what we want to be doing,” he said.
Gray and Rep. Rachel Rodriguez-Williams (Park County) also argued that the amendment would be outside of the scope of the bill.
Rodriquez-Williams added that “the only way to really prevent a pregnancy 100% is abstinence.”
Rep. Shelly Duncan (Goshen) said she didn’t understand objections to the amendment if the House really wants to prevent abortions.
“I’m completely confused about the objections,” she said. “Long-term contraception is to prevent unintended pregnancies…if we are not for abortion, why wouldn’t we encourage [preventing] unintended pregnancies?”
Rep. Tim Hallinan (Campbell) said that he believes intrauterine device (IUDs) can pose a “significant risk” of pelvic inflammatory disease and argued that offering such contraception options to students could create liability problems for the state.
The Mayo Clinic says that while there is a “small increased risk” of pelvic inflammatory disease after the insertion of an IUD, “this risk is generally confined to the first three weeks after insertion.”
Rep. Pepper Ottman (Fremont) said that students could still make the personal choice to use contraceptives, but said that she didn’t think the amendment pertained to the purpose of the original bill.
Connolly argued that the amendment would further the fundamental intent of those opposed to abortion by helping prevent unwanted pregnancies. She added that the amendment wouldn’t require any student to use contraceptives.
“Our purpose is [to prevent] unintended pregnancy, isn’t it?” she asked.
The House defeated Connolly’s amendment before passing House Bill 253 on second reading. The House would need to pass the legislation on one further reading before it would move to the Senate for consideration.
The legislation in its initial form aimed to prohibit the University of Wyoming from using any funding it controls to provide either elective abortions for students or “group health insurance that provides coverage of elective abortions for students.”
The House amended the legislation prior to their first reading vote to also prohibit community colleges from using any “general funds, federal funds or other funds” under their control for elective abortions or group insurance that provides abortions.
Gray argued on Monday that the principle was the same for both UW and community colleges: “If they are receiving taxpayer funds, they should not be using taxpayer funds to subsidize abortion,” he said.
During the 2020 budget session, the House adopted an amendment Gray proposed to the budget bill to prevent UW from receiving state funding if they were to expend any state or federal funds for the cost of elective abortions for students or to provide group health insurance coverage for students which covers elective abortions.
House Bill 253 would put that policy into state statute to be effective into the future rather than specifically attached to the budget bill passed in 2020.