(The Center Square) – Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee and other state officials announced new policies related to abortion access during a Friday afternoon press conference from inside Wayside United Church of Christ in Federal Way.
“I have something simple to say: Washington state was a pro-choice state, Washington state is a pro-choice state, and we are going to do everything humanly possible to make sure that Washington state is always a pro-choice state,” Inslee said.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, sending the contentious issue of abortion back to the states.
Inslee said efforts to protect a woman’s right to choose would include “a shield law to shield people in Washington to get access when they come from other states.”
The governor went on to say, “So these laws will prohibit other states of these anti-choice, dictatorial politicians who want to control a woman’s right of choice in our state. We will keep their tentacles out of the state of Washington.”
He mentioned the planned reintroduction of a bill in the upcoming legislative session “so hospital mergers do not deny women the actual ability to get these services.”
Inslee reiterated his support for a state constitutional amendment to protect abortion rights in Washington.
“Women deserve this in the state of Washington,” the governor said.
The governor’s words largely mirrored what he said over the summer in terms of asking lawmakers to strengthen privacy laws and enact new laws that will bar Washington law enforcement agencies from aiding other states in investigating alleged violations of anti-abortion laws in other states.
At the time, Inslee said he would push for a state constitutional amendment.
Rep. Drew Hansen, D-Bainbridge Island, went into some more detail about the legislation Inslee referred to as a “shield law.”
“This bill will prevent anti-other states from using Washington state courts or Washington state judicial process to enforce their anti-choice laws,” he explained.
Hansen, an attorney and chair of the House Civil Rights & Judiciary Committee, said the proposed new law, for example, would block out-of-state subpoenas for services lawfully received and provided in Washington.
Rep. Tarra Simmons, D-Bremerton, said she plans to reintroduce the “Keep Our Care Act” that failed to pass the state Legislature this year, to protect the right to abortion services amid health care organization mergers and acquisitions.
“But is a right really a right if we don’t have access?” the former registered nurse asked. “That fact is many of our hospitals and health care systems to restrict health care, including abortion care. Health care consolidations are prolific across Washington state and have dramatically reduced access to our reproductive health care.”
The bill would allow the Washington attorney general to review any mergers or acquisitions before they can be finalized.
Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Des Moines, took the opportunity to tout her own planned bill for next year that she said would prevent states with more stringent abortion laws from levying taxes and other retaliatory measures against companies in Washington.
“I’m going to have a bill next year that’s a little different,” she said. “It’s going to protect and indemnify companies and corporations that are headquartered in our state but have employees in states where there are abortion restrictions to make sure that those employees get the abortion services the company is willing to provide: travel benefits, sick pay, and any other services they need to get the reproductive care that they choose and need.”
Inslee and lawmakers attended Friday’s press conference days after activist Glen Morgan’s filing of a formal ethics complaint against the governor and 11 state legislators for using public resources to stage what he calls partisan political rallies disguised as abortion rallies.
Earlier Friday, the Washington State Republican Party issued a statement critical of Inslee for what it says is his use of taxpayer dollars to promote Democratic candidates and the party’s agenda.
Perhaps in response to the complaint or the criticism, Inslee and lawmakers appeared to stick to policy during the news conference and damped down any overt campaigning.