When some of the most prominent Republicans in Wyoming gathered together for a rally last weekend, they did what good patriots do: recited the Pledge of Allegiance.
But the leader of the pledge, well-known anti-abortion activist and former state lawmaker Marti Halverson, tacked some key words onto the end: “with liberty and justice for all, born and unborn.”
A few voices joined hers.
The addendum isn’t exactly common, even in anti-abortion circles, but it didn’t come out of nowhere. In 1990, a Catholic high school in Ohio revised the pledge to end with the lines, “with liberty and justice for the born and the unborn.” Kentucky’s Covington Catholic High School, infamous for a 2019 viral video involving its students near the March for Life in D.C., has also had its students recite the same altered Pledge of Allegiance every day, the New York Times reported in 2019.
The version uttered in Wyoming, however, came at an opportune time for the anti-abortion world: The state, like numerous others across the country, is set to outlaw almost all abortions, since the Supreme Court’s overturn of Roe v. Wade last month has triggered the state’s abortion ban. As of Wednesday, abortions are expected to be illegal in Wyoming except in cases of rape, incest, and when necessary to “preserve the woman from a serious risk of death or of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function.”
The Wyoming rally last weekend featured a who’s who of Wyoming Republicans, including Harriet Hageman, a lawyer running against embattled Rep. Liz Cheney in the state’s August primary. While Cheney has criticized former President Donald Trump and taken a key role on the Jan. 6 committee, Hageman has earned Trump’s stamp of approval. He even showed up at a Wyoming rally to support her—and to slam Cheney.
Hageman didn’t immediately respond to a VICE News request for comment on the altered Pledge of Allegiance, or for clarity on Hageman’s stance on abortion in cases of rape, incest, or medical emergencies.
Soon, though, even abortions in case of rape and incest may be illegal in Wyoming. In her speech at the rally, Halverson pledged that her organization, Wyoming Right to Life, would work to eliminate those exceptions from the state’s trigger ban.
“And speaking just for myself—this is not official Right to Life policy—I would also move to strike the exceptions for the life of the mother,” Halvorson added. “While I certainly understand that there are extremely rare medical circumstances that may require the termination of a pregnancy in order to save the woman’s life, in my opinion and in the opinion of many, it is never necessary to kill the baby. The infant can be safely delivered by any one of several methods and in accordance with new state law given all medical treatment available.”
It’s not true that doctors can always save a fetus, and numerous medical conditions can require an abortion to save a pregnant person’s life. The only treatment for ectopic pregnancies, which can be life-threatening, is ending the pregnancy. In other cases, someone may experience pre-eclampsia, a dangerous blood pressure condition; have their water break early (which means they’re at risk of dangerous infection); or start hemorrhaging. These three conditions may all occur in the second trimester of pregnancy and necessitate inducing delivery too early for any infant to survive.
“Frankly, I think a lot of people don't realize that abortion includes things like pre-viable deliveries for medical conditions,” said Dr. Ana Tobiasz, a North Dakota maternal fetal medicine specialist. “That's part of the problem with these laws, is that as they're written, most of the time, they're not including medical professionals that actually provide this type of care. And so they put that language in there, not realizing that now you have effectively banned all of these standard medical procedures.”
On Monday, Wyoming abortion providers, alongside a local abortion fund and several Wyoming residents, filed a lawsuit to halt the state’s trigger ban. Among those suing is Wellspring Health Access, which had planned to open an abortion clinic in Casper, Wyoming. But weeks before the planned opening, in June, someone set the clinic on fire. The damage has postponed the clinic’s opening indefinitely.
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