CASPER — Roughly 150 people protested Thursday outside an abortion clinic now under construction in Casper. The prayer event took place during the evening commute at one of Casper’s busier intersections, Second and McKinley.
Some protesters carried signs with sayings such as “Remember the unborn” and “Life, the first inalienable right.”
Protester Molly Moore brought a rosary and a dish of blessing salt “to keep evil out of this place.”
“Our country is drenched in the blood of aborted babies,” she said. “It’s selfish and evil, and we don’t want it in our town.”
The clinic is set to open this summer. It’ll be the only provider of surgical abortions in Wyoming and will also offer medication abortions, family planning, OB/GYN care and gender-affirming services.
Former Mills Town Councilman Mike Pyatt said ideally the clinic won’t open at all because of the opposition.
But if it does, he said he knows the group will “do its best to disrupt the services with so many people out front, women and girls won’t want to come in.”
Pyatt said he plans to ask members of the Casper City Council to “denounce” the clinic.
News of the clinic became public last week. Most in attendance said they heard about it from their churches or from the Casper True Care office.
The protest attracted considerably more people than organizers had expected, said Bob Brechtel, a former Republican state lawmaker who planned the demonstration.
“This is thrilling,” he said, “and it’s just beginning.”
Clinic founder Julie Burkhart attended the event and said she’s no stranger to opposition. She’s slightly worried about security — some people tried to come up on the clinic grounds — but said she’s glad it’s on such a busy street to get “more eyes” on it.
About half of the cars driving by cheered or honked in support of the demonstration. The rest shouted against them or laid on their horns. One man parked across the street and blasted music out of the back of his truck, apparently in opposition to the gathering.
Some protesters brought their children, including Tyler Martin, a pastor at Outfitter Church in Bar Nunn. He told his children they were going to “help mommies know they’re loved and supported.”
Currently, a Jackson doctor is the only provider of medical abortions in Wyoming.
Residents can also order abortion medication in the mail.
Surgical abortions can be performed later in a pregnancy than those by medication, though a Wyoming law passed in 2019 prohibits any abortions after a fetus is viable outside of the womb.
Burkhart said her organization, Circle of Hope, chose Casper for its first clinic because of its location. People from all parts of the state, as well as neighboring areas in South Dakota and Nebraska, will be able to use the facility, she said.
Circle of Hope has worked with a local advisory board to get the clinic open. Members of the board were also at the clinic during the demonstration. The nonprofit, based in Washington, D.C., eventually plans to open other clinics around the country, according to Burkhart.
Thursday’s demonstration was the first of weekly prayer events planned by abortion opponents.
Protesters passed around forms encouraging others to sign up for future demonstrations. The form included a non-violence pledge.
A larger, statewide peaceful protest is planned for the clinic’s opening this summer, according to Tim Lasseter of Park County Right to Life.
Ninety-one abortions were performed by Wyoming providers in 2020, according to data from the state health department. Eighty-eight of those were by medication, one was a surgical dilation procedure and two did not report their method.
Chelsea’s Fund, a Wyoming nonprofit that provides financial assistance to people seeking abortions, has assisted 63 people so far in 2022.