Mayor signs bill package expanding abortion protections, access in Seattle
Aug 15, 2022, 4:09 PM | Updated: 4:57 pm
Seattle will soon be a sanctuary city for those seeking an abortion after one of several new laws signed as part of a package of bills by Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell Monday, Aug. 15, in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision in June overturning Roe v. Wade.
The sanctuary law bars Seattle Police from pursuing any out-of-state warrants for those seeking abortion care in the city.
“Ultimately, these bills reflect our efforts as a city, they’re based on safety,” said Harrell at a City Hall bill signing ceremony. “We want every woman and person seeking an abortion to be able to make their decisions to seek reproductive justice with safety.”
Seattle councilmembers announce abortion protection legislation
The mayor says his office and the city council immediately recognized the threat to the health of women when the possibility of the High Court overturning Roe v. Wade started gaining momentum. Following the unanimous passage of Kshama Sawant’s sanctuary city bill last month, Councilmembers Lisa Herbold and Tammy Morales teamed up on more legislation to expand protections.
The following bills were signed into law:
- CB 120374 adds people who have received or are seeking abortions as a protected class, ensuring their civil rights’ protections.
- CB 120376 creates a misdemeanor charge for people who encroach on individuals seeking abortions or gender-affirming care.
- CB 120375 establishes Seattle as a sanctuary city for those seeking abortion care and prevents pursuit of out-of-state warrants related to abortions by Seattle Police.
- CB 120366 appropriates $250,000 of city funds to fund expanded access to reproductive healthcare by making an investment in Northwest Abortion Access Fund.
Those bills make abortion seekers and those seeking gender-affirming care a protected class to ensure their civil rights are protected. Another makes it a misdemeanor to encroach on a person’s efforts to get an abortion.
“Everyone in Seattle has heard of the Big One, that catastrophic earthquake that will occur at any moment. The Supreme Court’s decision in [Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization] is an earthquake. It’s the Big One,” said Herbold at the bill signing.
“Like the earthquake that we know is coming, Dobbs will also create a tidal wave in the form of an influx of medical refugees who live in states where they are suddenly unable to get the health care that they need, and they’re forced to cross state lines in search of it,” Herbold added. “Here in Seattle, we must be ready for them and meet them with the care and protection that is lacking in their home states.”
In her speech, Congresswoman Herbold noted experts predict Washington State will see a fourfold increase in people seeking abortions.
Herbold also noted that those seeking abortion care don’t typically have the luxury of time when making those difficult decisions, noting delayed reproductive healthcare is almost always more expensive and riskier.
She also thanked Mayor Harrell for answering the council’s call to appropriate $250,000 in the supplemental budget for expanded access to abortion care by investing in the Northwest Abortion Access Fund.
Councilmember Tammy Morales also praised the investment and signing of the new laws.
“On June 24th, the Supreme Court disregarded 50 years of precedents and achieved their agenda to take away a person’s right to choose by forcing people to give birth against their will. And I want to be clear this is the first time in our country’s history that a fundamental right has been taken away from our countrymen and people,” said Morales. “This is no longer a theoretical exercise. We see assaults on our courts, on marginalized communities. We see the reduction of rights and every level of government has a vital role to play in ensuring bodily autonomy for our neighbors and ensuring that we all have access to self-determination.”
Morales called the signing of the new laws a good first step but noted the city was responding to the Dobbs decision in real time and assessing the impacts as they became clearer.
“We have to add every tool in our toolbelt to ensure that health care access is protected for Seattleites and for all those who will be coming to seek care,” said Morales. “These bills are intended to provide clarity about actions that the city would take in specific situations.”
Morales also notes that she was not done passing new abortion protections, announcing her hope to soon pass legislation to regulate crisis pregnancy centers. Crisis pregnancy centers, Morales explained, are conservative Christian organizations that work to persuade pregnant people against having abortions. They often appear to operate as abortion clinics by providing contraception and health services, but they do not actually provide this information about abortion once a patient enters, instead redirecting them to adoption or other alternatives.
“Our legislation would work to ensure that these facilities cannot make public statements that are false or misleading by creating penalties for engaging in deceptive practices,” Morales said.
Morales noted that legislation would be modeled on similar legislation in San Francisco that has already been successful in upholding its ordinance.
While Monday’s bill signing was full of abortion access laws, there are still those opposed to the bills, saying the new laws will be harmful to women in the community.
“The only thing barbaric and extremist is killing off unborn babies because a woman is worried about poverty issues,” one man said during a public hearing on the sanctuary city bill.
“Abortions have historically been used as a tool of eugenics to decrease minority populations,” testified another man.
But collectively, city leaders disagree.
“We have to fully understand that this is a united commitment to maintain and expand our city’s embrace of some of our core values that I think makes Seattle very special,” said Mayor Harrell. “Our right for privacy, freedom, and our shared values based on love, empathy, sympathy, all of the compassion when women are seeking reproductive justice.”
Follow Hanna Scott on Twitter or email her here.