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Two prominent Wyoming Republicans have joined what organizers say is a grass-roots campaign to defeat a ballot proposal that would ban most abortions in Wyoming.

At a recent news conference in Casper, pro-choice activists announced the start of the "Wyoming No on No. 1 Campaign," a statewide effort aimed at defeating the pro-life initiative expected to appear on November's general election ballot.Both sides expect the measure to appear on the ballot even as the Wyoming Supreme Court is preparing to hear arguments next week on the initiative's constitutionality.

Joining the effort to defeat the proposal are former Wyoming House Speaker Warren Morton and his wife, Kathy, and former state Sen. and U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala Tom Stroock and his wife, Marta. Spokeswoman Lorna Johnson said the four have been named the campaign's honorary co-chairmen.

"It's an incredible endorsement to have them working with us," Johnson said. "I couldn't be more pleased."

Morton, who was House speaker in 1979, said he and his wife are "strong pro-choice people" who believe the proposed "Wyoming Human Life Protection Act" would place an unfair burden on women and buck Wyoming's tradition of respecting people's privacy.

The initiative would prohibit abortions except when the mother's life is endangered or in cases of rape and incest if the crime was reported to the police. Doctors who perform abortions in other cases could be prosecuted.

The choice of having an abortion should be available to women, particularly young, unwed women who aren't financially capable of raising a child, Morton said.

"It concerns me greatly that some young mother left with this burden really is left with the possibility of life in poverty," he said. "We're probably condemning the child to a life of poverty, too."

Morton added that the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down state laws that were less restrictive than the Wyoming ballot measure.

"Therefore, this seems to be a waste of everybody's time and energy," he said.

The Wyoming chapter of the National Abortion Rights Action League and Wyoming Planned Parenthood challenged the constitutionality of the initiative on the grounds that it violates the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court Roe vs. Wade ruling, which legalized abortion. They said the secretary of state's office shouldn't have approved the initiative submitted by the Unseen Hands Prayer Circle.

However, state District Judge Nicholas Kalokathis ruled last October that the political process should "run its course" before the courts intervene.

Colleen Enos of Cheyenne, spokeswoman for the Unseen Hands Prayer Circle, said her group will wage its own campaign leading up to the election.

"We haven't formed a `Yes on No. 1 Committee,' but there will be something," Enos said.

The group gathered enough signatures in early 1993 to place the measure on this year's general election ballot.