Inslee affirms Washington abortion protections amid looming Supreme Court rulings

Inslee's directive comes nearly two years after the nation's highest court overturned Roe v. Wade.

Published: June 11, 2024 11:00pm

(The Center Square) -

Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday issued a directive requiring the Washington State Department of Health to affirm that hospitals in the state have a legal requirement to provide emergency abortion services.

The clarification is necessary, according to the governor, because state statute regarding access to medical care does not specifically mention "abortion care."

Upcoming rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court are another reason to act, Inslee said at a Tuesday morning press conference

“The court could rule again any day that federal emergency healthcare directives do not protect a woman’s right to emergency abortion services,” Inslee said. “We are clarifying that in fact the protections under Washington law will protect women in the state of Washington."

Inslee's directive comes nearly two years after the nation's highest court overturned Roe v. Wade. The U.S. Supreme Court is set to rule this month on Moyle v. United States and Idaho v. United States, other abortion rights cases.

The Moyle case involves the question of whether an Idaho abortion law conflicts with the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act.

Since the 2022 Dobbs decision that sent abortion back to the states, Inslee and Democrats have sought to paint Washington as a safe haven for abortion services, as recently reported by The Center Square.

“Women coming in for services from outside of Washington state has gone up 50%,” Inslee pointed out.

He went on to say, “We have made abortion services more affordable and more accessible in the state of Washington. In the event the same court continues down that line of effort to take away this right, we have stockpiled mifepristone to make sure we have the ability to provide pharmaceutical services where appropriate.”

Inslee was the first governor to stockpile the the pregnancy-ending drug mifepristone ahead of the lower federal court ruling out of Texas that is now before the Supreme Court.

Also attending the press conference was Dr. Sarah Prager, a professor of medicine at the University of Washington with a focus on obstetrics and gynecology

Prager said since the Dobbs decision, she has treated several patients with pregnancy complications who traveled to Washington from other states.

“In all of these cases their physicians were unsure or unable to provide care in ending these non-viable pregnancies,” she said. “Abortion is always safer than continuing a pregnancy, and never more so than when there is an emergent concern about the life or health of a pregnant person.”

Inslee said Republicans in Washington want to take away a woman’s right to abortion.

“Both of their gubernatorial candidates, pretty clear where they are personally on this issue," the governor noted.

Both GOP candidates for governor weighed in on Inslee's comments.

Semi Bird’s campaign responded via email to say, “I continue to hear Bob Ferguson and Jay Inslee try to frighten women voters using the false narrative that their reproductive rights would be taken away if a Republican was to be elected governor of Washington state. To be clear, the governor has no right or authority to take away anyone's constitutional or lawful rights.”

Dave Reichert’s campaign released an advertisement last week vowing not to change abortion laws if elected Washington’s next governor.

The candidate sent The Center Square an email saying, "As I said in the ad I released last week, I will not change abortion laws in the state when I'm governor."

Inslee said some Washington hospitals are claiming they don't have to provide abortion services because of religious affiliations.

"This will be clear that emergency services have to be provided for a woman’s right of choice," Inslee said.

The Washington Hospital Association issued a news release after those comments saying there is no evidence that Washington hospitals are not providing appropriate emergency care.

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