Washington prepares for ‘influx of patients from Idaho’ after strengthening abortion protections

Mar 17, 2022, 9:45 AM | Updated: 12:16 pm

Washington abortion access...

Pro-choice demonstrators outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Seattle. (Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

As uncertainty surrounding access to reproductive health care continues to swirl in states across the country, Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill Thursday designed to strengthen Washington’s own abortion protections.

State lawmakers take up abortion debate amid uncertain future for Roe v. Wade

The bill — HB 1851 — updates outdated language in Washington laws related to abortion rights, as well as codifying existing practices. It also clarifies that licensed providers, nurses, and clinicians can legally provide abortion care even if they’re not doctors, and provides additional protections from prosecution for those seeking an abortion in Washington coming from states with more restrictive laws like Texas.

Inslee signed HB 1851 alongside several pro-choice advocates, who emphasized the need to strengthen abortion access amid concerns that the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court might overturn Roe v. Wade this summer.

“This is a moment where we’re facing the most significant threat to abortion rights that our country has seen in over a generation,” Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates CEO Jennifer Allen said. “Our state will not only safeguard abortion rights, but we’ll go further at a moment when that is absolutely critical — folks across the country need to see all of our elected leaders here in Washington going further to expand access to reproductive health care for Washingtonians.”

Restrictive abortion laws have spread to several other states since Texas passed legislation that allows private citizens to act as enforcers through civil lawsuits, rather than pursuing criminal prosecutions. In essence, it allows any person to sue a woman they suspect received an abortion, and entitles that person to $10,000 in damages if their allegations prove true.

State leaders react as Supreme Court weighs challenge to abortion laws

Idaho recently became the first state to pass restrictions that mirror Texas’ law, with Gov. Inslee saying that his hope is to have Washington provide access to those in the neighboring state in the months to come.

“This bill will increase the number of people who are statutorily allowed to provide this service to the citizens of Idaho,” he noted.If Idaho will not stand up for your constitutional rights, we will.” 

“We do expect an influx of patients from Idaho,” Allen added. “We’ve already see that in the eastern part of our state some of the time, and we expect a lot more of that not only from Idaho, but we’re seeing the potential for bans in other nearby states.”

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Washington prepares for ‘influx of patients from Idaho’ after strengthening abortion protections