SEATTLE (AP). -- Washington State enacted Thursday legal protections for people who travel to the state seeking reproductive and gender affirming procedures and treatments. It is now the latest Democrat led state to enact these safeguards, as Republican led states ban or limit care.
Drew Hansen (a Bainbridge Island Democrat) said that the law protects both patients and providers and tells other states that they cannot use Washington State courts or judicial process to enforce their prohibitions on abortions and gender affirming health care.
This blocks all related warrants, court orders, extradition requests, and subpoenas from other states. The law allows for a counterclaim up to $10,000 plus damages for those who are targeted by legal action.
Jay Inslee, wearing a pink bow tie in front of the Hans Rosling Center for Population Health of the University of Washington on Thursday, signed the bill while a group of Democratic legislators and others who support reproductive and gender affirming care applauded and cheered.
This new law is a response to states like Idaho, which has banned abortions. It also makes it illegal for adults to assist a minor in getting an abortion without parental consent. Idaho's Republican Governor signed legislation earlier this month that bans gender affirming medical treatment for transgender children. Anyone who provides such care could be convicted of a crime starting next year.
In the United States, transgender medical treatments for children and teenagers have been available for more than 10 years. They are endorsed by all major medical associations.
Washington lawmakers and anti-abortion activists questioned the need for a shield law, as abortion protections are already included in state law. The Seattle Times reported that at least one Republican legislator said Washington should work with abortion cases from out-of state.
Rep. Jim Walsh, Aberdeen, said that if we do not respect the decisions of other state's courts and law enforcement agencies, then we risk other states refusing to honor ours. The Republican lawmaker said that he is also concerned about the creation of an 'abortion-tourism' industry in his state.
Washington and Oregon are two states that allow women to terminate pregnancies. They have performed more abortions per month on average since June of last year, than before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Roe v. Wade. This is according to #WeCount, a national tracking initiative led by the Society of Family Planning. The nonprofit promotes research about abortion and contraception.
Since the court ruling, Washington clinics have reported an average of 138 abortions more per month than they did in the months prior.
Washington's new legislation is one of a few related measures that were passed by the Democrat led Legislature in this session, and signed by Governor Inslee on Thursday. Inslee signed two other bills: one that prevents out-of pocket costs for abortions in health insurance plans that are regulated by the Insurance Commissioner's Office of Washington state, and another which increases consumer protections regarding how companies collect and share health data.
A second bill protects healthcare providers who provide legal abortions or gender affirming care within the state from being disciplined.
A conservative Christian group is suing the state over mifepristone, a long-time FDA approved abortion drug. The state has also purchased a large order. The state Department of Corrections was authorized to distribute the drug by a law passed by lawmakers.
Inslee asked legislators to support changing the constitution of Washington to protect abortion rights, but this failed to progress -- in part because some Republican support was needed to reach a two-thirds majority in each chamber.
Washington State has legalized abortion since 1970, when a statewide referendum was held. Washington voters approved Initiative 120 in 1991, codifying Roe into the state law.