OLYMPIA, Wash. -This week a draft decision of the Supreme Court of the United States indicated its intent to overturn the country’s decades-old constitutional right to an abortion guaranteed by the 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade.
On Tuesday, dozens of state and local leaders attended a press conference and rally with hundreds of community advocates and reproductive care providers. Their shared message was a full-throated affirmation that Washington state is and will remain a pro-choice state dedicated to serving any person who needs access to safe, affordable abortion.
As many as 26 states are poised or likely to ban abortion as soon as the court overturns Roe. This includes Washington’s neighboring state of Idaho which has a “trigger law” that would go into effect immediately.
This means patients will have to travel to states like Washington for abortion care. Providers are preparing for a large increase in the number of patients seeking services. Gov. Jay Inslee said during Tuesday’s press conference that state leaders are exploring options for expanding access and legal protections.
Washington state has some of the first and strongest abortion rights in the nation. The state’s voters legalized abortion in 1970 by passing Referendum 20. In 1991, during the lead-up to the first major Supreme Court challenge to Roe v. Wade – a case known as Planned Parenthood v. Casey – Washington voters approved I-120, also known as the Reproductive Privacy Act.
This pending court decision highlights the crucial role governors and state legislatures play in protecting access to such care. Even in Washington state, extremist legislative Republicans have introduced approximately 40 bills in the past six years that would roll back access to abortion and contraception.
But Democratic majorities continue to defend full access to safe and affordable abortion. In 2018 Inslee signed the Reproductive Parity Act, sponsored by the current Secretary of State Steve Hobbs, that requires all health plans that include maternity care services to also cover abortion and contraception. Earlier this year Inslee signed the Affirm Washington Abortion Access Act, sponsored by Rep. My-Linh Thai, that better ensures the ability of Washington abortion care providers to serve any person who comes to Washington state seeking an abortion. The access bill was passed on a straight party-line vote in both the House and Senate, and the parity act passed with only a couple of Republican votes.