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Washington State News

Attorney General Ferguson Seeks Protection for Out-of-State Abortion Providers

SEATTLE — Attorney General Bob Ferguson today sent a letter to the members of the Washington Medical Commission, the Washington State Board of Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery, the Washington State Pharmacy Quality Assurance Commission, and the Washington Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission asking the boards to exercise discretion when licensing out-of-state medical providers who have been penalized for providing abortion services criminalized in other states. 
 
The Washington Medical Commission, the Washington Board of Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery, and the Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission are responsible for providing licenses for medical providers in Washington state. This process generally involves a criminal background check, and prosecutions and convictions for certain crimes can disqualify a provider from obtaining a license to practice medicine in Washington.  
 
If the Supreme Court reverses precedent and allows states to enforce state laws criminalizing abortion, Ferguson asks the boards to exercise their discretion and ensure providers who are penalized under these laws but otherwise meet Washington’s standard of care are not barred from practicing in Washington. In the letter, Ferguson asks the boards to issue clear guidance for the public and providers indicating that they will not take action or disqualify a provider from licensure solely for providing reproductive or gender-affirming care that is legal and protected in Washington but criminalized in other states.
 
“If the United States Supreme Court eliminates the federal right to abortion and reproductive care, medical providers who come to Washington to practice should be not penalized for providing this essential care that is legal in Washington,” Ferguson said. “We have the opportunity here to stand up for our values that voters have adopted into law.”
 
In 1991, Washington voters passed Initiative 120, the Reproductive Privacy Act, which codified the right to choose into state law. In 2018, the Legislature passed the Reproductive Parity Act, which requires insurance plans to cover abortions and abortion care if they cover maternity care. State law prohibits insurance companies from discrimination based on gender identity, and in 2021, the Legislature passed a law requiring insurers to cover gender-affirming care beginning in January 2022.