NATIONAL NEWS

Arrest made in fire at planned Wyoming abortion clinic

Mar 22, 2023, 4:44 PM | Updated: 6:16 pm

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — A woman was arrested on charges of setting fire to a building in Wyoming that was being renovated to house the state’s only full-service abortion clinic, authorities said Wednesday, hours after a judge temporarily blocked a ban on abortion that went into effect a few days ago.

Lorna Roxanne Green, 22, of Casper, was arrested on Tuesday by Casper police and agents from the FBI and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Wyoming U.S. Attorney Nicholas Vassallo said in a statement.

Green faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted, according to the statement. She is scheduled to appear in federal court in Cheyenne on Thursday morning.

The fire was set on May 25, 2022, at a stucco house in Casper, the state’s second-largest city and the site of frequent anti-abortion protests.

A witness told police they heard glass breaking and saw a person leaving the area carrying a gas can and a black bag. Security video released by police showed a woman in a hooded shirt and mask carrying what appeared to be a red fuel can through a room of the building just before the fire.

No one was injured in the blaze, which left the planned Wellspring Health Access clinic with broken windows and smoke damage.

“Now that a suspect has been arrested, we can continue our singular focus on providing quality reproductive health care to the Casper community in a safe, compassionate environment,” Wellspring President Julie Burkhart said in a statement.

The clinic had been scheduled to open last summer as the only facility of its kind in the state, offering women’s health care, family planning and gender-affirming health care in addition to abortion services. But the fire delayed those plans.

It was then slated to open next month but was thrown into doubt after Gov. Mark Gordon allowed a broad new abortion ban to take effect on Sunday without his signature. On Wednesday, Teton County District Court Judge Melissa Owens halted the ban after a hearing in which abortion-rights supporters said the law harms pregnant women and their doctors and violates the state constitution. Owens suspended the ban for at least two weeks.

The ban prohibits abortion at all stages of pregnancy except in cases of rape or incest that’s reported to police, or to save a woman’s life. An amendment in the Wyoming Constitution says adults have a right to make their own health care decisions, so Republicans enacted a ban that states abortion is not health care.

Owens had also blocked a previous ban since shortly after it took effect last summer.

Prior to the latest ban, a clinic in the mountain town of Jackson provided medication abortions.

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Arrest made in fire at planned Wyoming abortion clinic