Americans woke up on June 24 to news of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling, and while abortions and reproductive care will remain legal in Washington, the state is expected to become strained.
Originally decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973, the Roe v. Wade ruling protected a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion.
“Republicans ripped away our rights and made this generation the first generation of American women with fewer rights than their mothers,” said Washington Sen. Patty Murray, who is also the chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
Sen. Murray brought up how Republicans are now pushing for a federal abortion ban, and expects Republicans to go after birth control next.
“Republicans are forcing women to stay pregnant and give birth when they don’t want to — no matter the circumstances,” said Murray. “Republicans are even passing laws to jail women who get abortions and the doctors who provide them.”
On June 24, King County Executive Dow Constantine said healthcare providers and public health leaders are bracing for a large influx of individuals traveling to Washington and King County in order to obtain abortions.
Constantine announced that a $1 million grant in emergency funding would be provided to bolster abortion response in Washington. The Northwest Abortion Access Fund (NWAAF) will receive $500,000 directly, and another $500,000 will go to Public Health–Seattle & King County as an emergency fund to ensure the local healthcare system is able to respond to the expected surge in abortions.
“This morning’s ruling by the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade is the culmination of a decades-long strategy by right-wing zealots to strip the essential right to abortion care from millions of Americans,” said Constantine.
Planned Parenthood released a statement on June 24 where it was relayed how the consequences of the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade will largely fall on Americans who face the greatest barriers to health care, including Black, Latino, and Indigenous communities; people with low incomes; LGBTQ+ people; immigrants; and people living in rural areas.
“Make no mistake — this decision goes beyond abortion. This is about who has power over you, who has the authority to make decisions for you, and who can control your future,” said Jennifer M. Allen, CEO of Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates.
Allen said Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates will fight for people seeking abortions, and that they will not back down.
“Generations before us have fought tirelessly to gain and protect our rights. Now it’s our turn to pick up the mantle,” said Allen.
Defending reproductive freedom
In face of the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court, governors from Washington, Oregon and California launched a multi-state commitment to defend reproductive freedom. These three states will continue to be a safe haven for all who are seeking abortions and reproductive healthcare services.
The state governors have committed to defend access to reproductive health care, including abortions and contraceptives, and protecting patients and doctors against efforts by other states to export abortion bans to these three states.
Gov. Jay Inslee stated how the law in Washington state around abortions and reproductive healthcare remains unchanged, although the threat to patient access and privacy is at its peak. Inslee explained how over the past six years in Washington state, Republicans have introduced approximately 40 bills to get rid of abortion rights and access to reproductive healthcare.
“More than half the nation’s population now lacks safe access to a medical procedure that only a patient and their doctor can and should make for themselves,” said Inslee. “Instead, law enforcement, vigilantes and judicial systems can force patients to bear the burdens of forced pregnancy and birth.”
Inslee described how Washington state will continue protecting the right to choose for every patient that comes into the state in need of abortion.
“We will fight like hell to restore that right to patients all across the country,” said Inslee.
Over the past several years, Inslee has taken action to expand access to reproductive healthcare. In 2018, he signed the Reproductive Parity Act, which requires that all healthcare plans include maternity care services and cover abortion and contraception.
In 2021, Inslee signed the Protecting Pregnancy Act, which allows doctors who practice in Catholic-run hospitals to bypass ethical-religious directives, and provide medically necessary abortions when a pregnant person’s life is in danger.
Earlier this year, Inslee signed the Affirm Washington Abortion Access Act, which better ensures the ability of Washington abortion care providers to serve any individual who comes into the state seeking an abortion. This law also protects patients and clinic personnel from harassment outside of clinics.
As the news of Roe v. Wade took a hold of the nation, Idaho’s governor made a different response than the one made by Washington’s governor.
“I join many in Idaho and across the country today in welcoming the high court’s long awaited decision upholding state sovereignty and protecting preborn lives,” said Idaho Gov. Brad Little.
Little went on to talk about how Idaho has been on the forefront of enacting new legislation to protect “preborn babies.” He mentioned how he signed a pro-life bill into law back in 2020, which will go into effect later this summer.
The 2020 law in which Little refers to is a trigger law, which would make having an abortion a felony. If charged with a felony, basic human rights would be stripped away, such as the right to vote in presidential elections. The trigger law, however, makes exceptions for cases of rape, incest and to save a pregnant person’s life. A person who experienced rape or incest must provide a copy of a police report to the physician who would perform the procedure, which could take weeks. Furthermore, the pregnant person has only six weeks to receive an abortion.
Little also acknowledged a need for growing support for women, families and pregnant teenagers in months and years to come.
“We absolutely must come together like never before to support women and teens facing unexpected or unwanted pregnancies,” said Little. “Families, churches, charities, and local and state government must stand ready to lift them up and help them and their families with access to adoption services, healthcare, financial and food assistance, counseling and treatment, and family planning.”
Washington state Attorney General makes promises
On June 24, Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson made three promises to Washingtonians.
“When the Senate confirmed Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the court, I knew this day was possible. Consequently, I told my legal team to start preparing,” said Ferguson.
Ferguson promised that as long as he serves in public office in Washington state, no one will take away the right to choose. He also promised to use every tool available to defend the Reproductive Privacy Act.
“Moreover, I will use my authority to ensure Washington welcomes any individual who comes here to access the fundamental right to reproductive justice,” said Ferguson.
The Attorney General said he is already working to protect medical professionals who are prosecuted in other states for providing essential healthcare services that are legal and protected in the state of Washington.
King County Prosecuting Attorney will not prosecute abortions
In wake of the Supreme Court decision, 83 elected prosecutors from across the country have committed to refuse to prosecute those who seek, assist in, or provide abortions, calling the criminalization of abortion care “a mockery of justice.”
The 83 elected prosecutors collectively represent about 87 million people across 28 states and territories, as well as the District of Columbia. They also represent nearly 27 million individuals from 11 states where abortion is now banned, or likely to be banned.
“Today’s Supreme Court decision is an affront to 50 years of settled jurisprudence and a fundamental attack on access to reproductive healthcare,” said Dan Satterberg, King County Prosecuting Attorney.
Satterberg acknowledged how Washington has strong protections for abortions rights. However, there will be continued efforts to weaken those laws and punish Washington state healthcare providers who serve patients from states where abortion is now illegal.
“The Court today also signaled a potential future path where other critical privacy interests — same-sex marriage, contraception, sexual privacy — may be next on the federal chopping block,” said Satterberg.
Satterberg mentioned how he never has and never will use his discretion to criminalize personal medical decisions.
“As a private and concerned citizen, I will also continue to support other organizations fighting for human dignity and fundamental privacy from governmental overreach into our lives,” said Satterberg.