Woman to Be Sentenced for Burning Down Wyoming Abortion Clinic

Lorna Green said she opposed abortion but expressed regret for setting fire to the abortion clinic, which also offers ‘gender-affirming care.’
Woman to Be Sentenced for Burning Down Wyoming Abortion Clinic
This booking photo provided by the Platte County Sheriff's Office shows Lorna Roxanne Green in Wheatland, Wyoming, on March 23, 2023. (Platte County Sheriff's Office via AP)
Caden Pearson

A Wyoming woman who set fire to a brand new abortion clinic in Casper that would also offer “gender-affirming care” will be sentenced on Thursday, facing up to 20 years in prison.

At a hearing in July, Lorna Roxanne Green admitted to federal arson, expressed regret, and told U.S. District Judge Alan Johnson that she “knew right after” that it was wrong.

She was remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service following her July 20 court appearance.

Ms. Green said she was driven by anxiety and nightmares to set fire to the Wellspring Health Access facility, Wyoming’s only clinic that offers both surgical and pill abortions, as well as transgender treatments.

She purchased gas cans and aluminum pans to contain the combustible liquid the day before she drove to Casper, she told a U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent.

According to court documents, Ms. Green admitted to using a rock to break glass in a door to enter the clinic, and poured gasoline into the aluminum pans in a number of rooms and on the floor, before lighting it on fire.

Security video and a witness account matched Ms. Green’s account of how she carried the gas cans and aluminum pans to the clinic in a bag, according to a court filing.

She told investigators that she opposed abortion.

The fire-damaged Wellspring Health Access clinic is cordoned off by tape in Casper, Wyoming, on May 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Mead Gruver)
The fire-damaged Wellspring Health Access clinic is cordoned off by tape in Casper, Wyoming, on May 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Mead Gruver)

The fire occurred weeks before the clinic was to open. The building required extensive remodeling, which set the clinic’s opening back by almost a year.

Ms. Green was arrested on March 21 and then indicted by a federal grand jury in May, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Wyoming.

Authorities were finally able to identify Ms. Green with the help of tipsters after increasing a reward to $15,000 in March.

The Wellspring Health Access opened in April, providing surgical and pill abortions. Wyoming’s only other abortion clinic, in Jackson, provides abortion pills only.

The state legislature passed laws restricting pill abortions in 2022 and 2020, however, in June a judge halted the ban while a legal challenge plays out. As a result, the pill, known as mifepristone, will remain accessible to women for now while the legal challenge unfolds.

Wyoming is the only state that has specifically prohibited abortion pills, whereas other Republican-led states have included medication abortions in their broader abortion restrictions.

Teton County District Judge Melissa Owens, who was appointed by the state’s Republican Gov. Mark Gordon, ruled that the attorneys representing Wyoming failed to demonstrate that the ban would not harm the plaintiffs before their lawsuit was resolved.

The Wellspring Health Access is a party to the legal challenge, that was also filed collectively by four women, two obstetricians, and one other nonprofit organization.

The case revolves around a state constitutional amendment enacted in 2012, which was a response to the Affordable Care Act—also known as Obamacare—which states that Wyoming residents have the right to make their own health care decisions. Judge Owens was sympathetic to this argument.

However, Wyoming State’s Attorney Jay Jerde argued that the amendment did not extend to abortions for reasons other than health care. He contended that abortion doesn’t fall within the scope of restoring a woman’s body from pain, injury, or physical sickness.

“Medical services are involved, but getting an abortion for reasons other than health care, it can’t be a medical decision,” Jerde argued in court.

However, Judge Owens disagreed, saying that pregnancy itself involves pain and sickness. While Mr. Jerde charged that this is not why women seek abortions.

In March, Wyoming enacted a complete abortion ban, with exceptions for cases where a life is in danger or for instances of rape or incest that are reported to the police. However, this ban is not enforceable while the legal challenge unfolds. Currently, abortions are legal in the state up until the unborn child is viable at around 24 to 26 weeks.

In April, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that mifepristone, the abortion pill, would be widely accessible while an ongoing legal battle over its regulatory approval continues. The Food and Drug Administration approved mifepristone in 2000. It is used in combination with another drug called misoprostol to terminate pregnancies of up to 10 weeks.

The pill is also sometimes used for women experiencing miscarriages. Medication abortions, also known as chemical abortions, account for more than half of all abortions in the United States.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.