The governor of Washington promises to defend the right to abortion | Washington, D.C. News
By RACHEL LA CORTE, Associated Press
OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Washington Governor Jay Inslee has denounced a proposed U.S. Supreme Court opinion that would overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade and said the state would provide refuge for out-of-state women seeking abortions and explore ways to codify abortion rights in the state Constitution.
Inslee, joined by other Democratic leaders at a Tuesday rally in Seattle, also said he would work to ensure the state has adequate resources to provide abortion services to those visiting the state for the procedure.
“They will be welcome and they will be safe,” Inslee said.
The leaked draft of the US Supreme Court’s opinion – which could change before the court officially rules next month – was published Monday evening by the Politico newspaper.
Abortion has been legal in Washington state since a 1970 referendum. A 1991 ballot measure, also approved by voters, declared a woman’s right to choose a doctor-performed abortion before fetal viability and expanded and protected abortion access in the state if Roe v. Wade were overturned. And in 2018, the Democratic-led Legislature passed a measure that would require Washington insurers offering maternity care to also cover elective abortions and contraception.
Earlier this year, Inslee enacted a measure that expands the number of providers who can perform abortions, granting specific statutory authorization to physician assistants, advanced registered nurse practitioners and other providers acting within their scope of practice.
The measure also banned legal action against people seeking abortions and those who help them, a move aimed at rebutting recent actions by conservative states. Conservative legislatures in several states have passed or proposed new abortion restrictions in anticipation of possible Roe v. Wade from 1973.
The Washington measure, which takes effect in June, prohibits the state from taking any action against a person seeking to terminate a pregnancy or for assisting a pregnant person to have an abortion.
The language is in response to a Texas law, which went into effect last September, that bans abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy and makes no exceptions for rape or incest. Enforcement is left to private citizens, who can collect $10,000 or more if they successfully bring a lawsuit against a provider or anyone who helps a patient obtain an abortion.
If Inslee pushes for a constitutional amendment, as Democratic leaders in California have announced they will, Democratic leaders would need to get bipartisan support since the Democratic majority in the Washington Legislature does not hold a supermajority in the two houses, and it takes a two-thirds vote of the Legislative Assembly to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot.
Democratic President Laurie Jinkins said in a phone interview that a constitutional amendment to enshrine the right to abortion in the state Constitution is difficult to achieve “but it is an option we would consider.”
She said, however, that for now, her goal is to protect current state law protections and “continue to make sure everyone in this state has access to them.”
Inslee also noted that the state Supreme Court could codify abortion rights into the state constitution, but said that would take time and litigation.
Senate Republican Leader John Braun said the court’s opinion “doesn’t change much in our state.”
“Democrats were quick to point out that the law here in Washington continues to provide options for abortion procedures,” he said in a written statement. “Whatever the law, whatever your policy, fewer abortions should be a common goal.”
Twenty-six states are certain or likely to ban abortion if Roe v. Wade is canceled, according to abortion rights think tank, the Guttmacher Institute. Of these, 22 states already have total or near-total bans on books currently blocked by Roe, with the exception of Texas. The Texas law banning it after six weeks was allowed to go into effect by the Supreme Court because of its unusual civil enforcement structure. Four other states are considered likely to quickly enact bans if Roe is overturned.
Meanwhile, sixteen states and the District of Columbia have protected access to abortion in state law.
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