Washington lawmakers look to strengthen reproductive rights

Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Washington’s state lawmakers expressed clear intentions to further protect reproductive rights, including access to abortion.

In late October, a group of lawmakers joined Gov. Jay Inslee to highlight a legislative agenda for the coming 2023 session that will focus on protecting those who seek abortions in Washington.

Chief among the goals in 2023 is Inslee’s anticipated request for legislation that would seek an amendment to the state Constitution that establishes a fundamental right to abortion and a right to choose contraception in Washington. Currently, state statute, which is subject to changes by lawmakers, protects a woman’s choice.

“We have storm clouds on the horizon. There are those that would like to threaten a woman’s right of choice,” Inslee said in a statement announcing the legislative efforts. “This right must be enshrined in the basic foundational document in the state: our constitution. This private right and most intimate decision must be protected.”

Lawmakers said they will also propose legislation that would make Washington a sanctuary for those seeking reproductive or gender-affirming care in the state. This policy would serve to protect those from outside Washington who come to the state to receive care, lawmakers said.

The policy would provide legal tools and protections for patients and healthcare providers if civil or criminal action is taken against them for care in Washington, according to lawmakers.

The Seattle Times recently reported that the legislation would seek to indemnify companies based in Washington that are helping employees in other states access abortions.

While a number of states have moved swiftly to limit reproductive rights following the U.S. Supreme Court’s June decision on Dobbs vs. Jackson, Washington’s leaders, including Inslee, have been working with some nearby states to provide more robust protections.

The Washington Health Alliance is pleased to see these efforts gain momentum ahead of the 2023 legislative session.

These policies would address important issues regarding equitable access to care that both a patient and their physician believe are appropriate. The policies would also strengthen privacy for patients, removing government influence from personal decisions that need only be shared between an experienced healthcare professional and their patient.

Privacy, which was at the heart of the decision in Roe vs. Wade, is crucial for all Washingtonians to make the right decision for their health without fear of scrutiny or reprisal.

The legislature is scheduled to convene in early January.

Published: October 31, 2022

About Washington Health Alliance

The Washington Health Alliance is a place where stakeholders work collaboratively to transform Washington state’s health care system for the better. The Alliance brings together organizations that share a commitment to drive change in our health care system by offering a forum for critical conversation and aligned efforts by stakeholders: purchasers, providers, health plans, consumers and other health care partners. The Alliance believes strongly in transparency and offers trusted and credible reporting of progress on measures of health care quality and value. The Alliance is a nonpartisan 501(c)(3) nonprofit with more than 185 member organizations. A cornerstone of the Alliance's work is the Community Checkup, a report to the public comparing the performance of medical groups, hospitals and health plans and offering a community-level view on important measures of health care quality (www.wacommunitycheckup.org).

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