A judge in Cheyenne, Wyoming has ruled that Lorna Green, the woman responsible for setting fire to the state’s only full-service abortion clinic, must pay nearly $300,000 in restitution. Green, who is currently serving a five-year prison sentence for the crime, burned Wellspring Health Access just weeks before the clinic was set to open in Casper in 2022. The fire caused significant damage to the building and delayed its opening by almost a year. Now that it is operational, Wellspring is the only abortion clinic in Wyoming, as another clinic providing pill abortions closed due to rising costs.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Alan Johnson ordered Green, 22, to pay approximately $298,000 in restitution. This amount includes $240,000 to Nationwide General Insurance Company, the clinic’s insurer. Additionally, Green must 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 ruling, stating that it brings closure to the emotional and financial challenges faced by the clinic. Green’s attorney, Ryan Semerad, did not oppose the restitution and said that Green looks forward to building a productive life after her incarceration.
Arson Attack and Guilty Plea
Green, a mechanical engineering student at Casper College, admitted to breaking into the clinic and setting fire to it. She poured gasoline on the floor and ignited it in trays. Despite showing no anti-abortion views on social media, Green expressed opposition to abortion to investigators. She claimed that anxiety and nightmares about the planned clinic were the driving forces behind her crime. After several months with little progress in the investigation, a reward of $15,000 was offered, leading to tips that eventually led to Green’s arrest in March. In June, she pleaded guilty to the charge of arson and received the minimum prison sentence of five years, although she could have faced up to 20 years behind bars.
Impact on Abortion Laws
The arson attack on the clinic occurred at a time when new laws in Wyoming were seeking to ban abortion in nearly all cases. These laws, including the nation’s first explicit ban on abortion pills, are currently on hold due to a lawsuit filed by four women and two nonprofits, including Wellspring Health Access. The lawsuit was heard in December, and Wyoming District Judge Melissa Owens is currently considering whether to rule on the laws. Regardless of her decision, it is likely that the case will be appealed and brought before the state Supreme Court, further shaping Wyoming’s abortion laws.