NATIONAL NEWS

A woman who burned Wyoming’s only full-service abortion clinic is ordered to pay $298,000

Dec 27, 2023, 11:19 AM

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — A judge has ordered a woman who set fire to Wyoming’s only full-service abortion clinic to pay nearly $300,000 in restitution, the full amount sought by prosecutors.

Lorna Green is serving five years in prison for burning Wellspring Health Access weeks before the clinic was set to open in Casper in 2022. The fire gutted the building while it was being renovated for the new clinic and delayed its opening by almost a year.

After opening this past April, Wellspring is now the only abortion clinic in Wyoming. A clinic in Jackson that provided pill abortions closed Dec. 15 due to rising costs.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Alan Johnson ordered Green, 22, to pay about $298,000 in restitution including $240,000 to Nationwide General Insurance Company, the clinic’s insurer.

Green must also pay $33,500 to the building’s owner, Christine Lichtenfels, and $24,500 to Julie Burkhart, founder and president of Wellspring Health Access. Burkhart expressed satisfaction with the restitution.

“Not only did we have the emotional struggle and that trauma from the arson but also it was quite challenging for us financially. So I’m glad this is the final piece and it has been put to rest,” Burkhart said Wednesday.

The restitution was identical to the amounts sought by prosecutors and unopposed by Green’s attorney, Ryan Semerad, who in an emailed statement said Wednesday that Green “looks forward to a productive and peaceful life after her term of incarceration.”

Green has expressed remorse for the crime, which she said was driven by anxiety and nightmares about the planned clinic. The Casper College mechanical engineering student had shown no sign of anti-abortion views on social media but told investigators she opposed abortion.

She admitted driving from Laramie to Casper, breaking into the clinic through a door and lighting gasoline she poured in trays and splashed on the floor. After months of little progress, investigators increased the reward to $15,000 and got tips leading to Green’s arrest in March.

Green pleaded guilty in June to arson and in September received the minimum prison sentence. She had faced up to 20 years in prison.

The arson and eventual opening of the clinic happened as new laws in Wyoming seek to ban abortion in nearly all cases. The laws, including the nation’s first explicit ban on abortion pills, have been put on hold by a judge amid a lawsuit filed by four women and two nonprofits including Wellspring Health Access.

After hearing arguments in the lawsuit Dec. 14, Wyoming District Judge Melissa Owens is weighing whether to rule on the laws. Her decision would likely be appealed, putting Wyoming’s abortion laws before the state Supreme Court.

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A woman who burned Wyoming’s only full-service abortion clinic is ordered to pay $298,000