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Wyoming doctor successfully defeats abortion ban hours after arrest is made in clinic arson case


Left: Dr. Giovannina Anthony, second from left, an OB/GYN and plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging Wyoming’s new law banning most abortions, hugs her attorney after Ninth District Court Judge Melissa Owens issued a temporary halt of the law, Wednesday, March 22, 2023, in Jackson, Wyo. (Kathryn Ziesig/Jackson Hole News & Guide via AP). Right: Images of the suspect who allegedly set fire to the Wellspring Health Access Clinic on May 25, 2022 in Casper, Wyoming (via Casper Police Dept.).

A 22-year-old woman accused of setting fire to Wyoming’s only full-service abortion clinic was arrested just hours before a judge blocked enforcement of the state’s newly-enacted near-total abortion ban.

Lorna Roxanne Green, 22, was arrested on Tuesday by Casper police, FBI agents, and agents from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Justice Department announced. According to surveillance video and witness accounts, a person was seen breaking a window at the Wellspring Health Access Clinic in Casper on May 25, 2022. They then allegedly poured gas from a red plastic pitcher into the facility and left as smoke appeared to emanate from the building.

The clinic, which was scheduled to open in June of 2022, intended to offer OB/GYN care, gender-affirming care, and abortion procedures. According to local media reports and as indicated on Wellspring’s website, the Wyoming clinic has not yet opened.

Green’s arrest came as the result of a $10,000 reward funded by an anonymous donor, the Justice Department says.

“This case demonstrates how valuable tips are from the community,” said United States Attorney Nicholas Vassallo in a statement, adding that tips from the public were “instrumental” in identifying and arresting Green.

If Green is convicted, she faces a minimum of five years and up to 20 years in prison.

Hours after multiple law enforcement agencies descended on Green, Judge Melissa Owens of Teton County District Court conducted an emergency hearing to examine Wyoming’s restrictive abortion law in a case brought by one of Wellspring Health Access Clinic’s doctors.

Dr. Giovannina Anthony is an obstetrician-gynecologist who currently practices at the only clinic currently functioning in Wyoming. She also plans to practice at Wellspring Health Access Clinic when it opens. Anthony joined with other health care providers, non-profit organizations, and a woman who says that her Jewish faith requires abortion access to challenge Wyoming’s Life is a Human Right Act in a lawsuit.

The act, which went into effect on Sunday, mandates that abortion providers be charged with a felony that carries up to a five-year prison sentence and a $20,000 fine. The law prohibits nearly all abortions, but it does provide exceptions for certain health risks to the pregnant woman. It also includes exceptions for cases of rape and incest, but only if a police report has been made — a requirement that abortion-rights advocates have criticized as unworkable.

In Owens’ ruling blocking the abortion ban, the judge pointed to a guarantee in the Wyoming state constitution that “[e]ach competent adult shall have the right to make his or her own health care decisions.”

“Wyomingites voted into law that they have a fundamental right to make their own health care decisions,” said Owens during the hearing, which was broadcast live on the Wyoming courts website. “The Legislature cannot make an end run, essentially, around providing a Constitutional amendment.”

Owens said that what must next be determined is whether abortion constitutes “health care.” The order blocking the abortion ban is a temporary one and will stay in place while the underlying case is litigated.

The six plaintiffs challenging the Life is a Human Right Act are also challenging a separate abortion law banning the use of pills for abortion, which is scheduled to take effect on July 1. Wyoming was the first state to explicitly ban the use of abortion pills following the FDA’s recent change in regulations.

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Elura is a columnist and trial analyst for Law & Crime. Elura is also a former civil prosecutor for NYC's Administration for Children's Services, the CEO of Lawyer Up, and the author of How To Talk To Your Lawyer and the Legalese-to-English series. Follow Elura on Twitter @elurananos