Inslee affirms WA’s position that hospitals must provide emergency abortion services

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Washington medical providers must continue to perform emergency abortion services for patients, Gov. Jay Inslee emphasized on Tuesday.

As the country awaits a U.S. Supreme Court ruling over how a federal law governing emergency medical treatment affects abortion in states with bans and other strict limits on the procedure, Inslee issued a directive to the Washington State Department of Health to clarify its requirements.

Although current law protects emergency reproductive health care, Inslee said a new rule written by the Department of Health will provide necessary guidance to Washington hospitals and will affirm that the state’s position on providing these services remains unchanged, regardless of the Supreme Court ruling.

“You shouldn’t have to die to get health care in the state of Washington,” Inslee said. “If your health is jeopardized by not having access to these abortion services, the hospital has an obligation to provide them.”

Following the Supreme Court’s decision two years ago in the Dobbs case, overturning of Roe v. Wade, Idaho enacted a near-total abortion ban.

In Idaho and Moyle, et. al. v. United States, the Supreme Court will decide whether the state’s ban supersedes the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, which requires hospitals to evaluate and treat patients with emergency conditions, including “necessary stabilizing treatment” to pregnant people.

Inslee was joined on Tuesday by Dr. Sarah Prager, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Washington School of Medicine. Prager called efforts in other states to limit when physicians can provide medically necessary care, like abortions, “mind-boggling.”

“How close to death must somebody be before a doctor is able to step in and provide care?” Prager said. “When I or any doctor has a sick patient in front of me, I shouldn’t have to pause and consult with the hospital’s legal team.”

Inslee has been outspoken against Idaho Gov. Brad Little, a Republican, and the state’s laws restricting abortion access, arguing that more patients would end up coming to Washington for care, straining the state’s system.

A study by University of Washington researchers, published last month, found that following the fall of Roe v. Wade, one large network of clinics in Washington has seen a 50% increase in out-of-state patients traveling here for abortions.

Since Dobbs, Inslee and the state Legislature have provided more funding to train people to perform this reproductive health care, enacted health data privacy laws, stockpiled the abortion pill mifepristone, and boosted protections for out-of-state patients who receive services in Washington and the state’s medical providers who perform them.

Still, in Tuesday’s directive, Inslee said, “it is vital for state government to inform and reassure the public that our state law protects their right to access abortion care.”

The Department of Health rule will apply to all patients, regardless of whether they’re Washington residents, Inslee said.

“We have to be aggressive, we have to be robust in our response, and we have to be clear,” Inslee said. “This will direct the Department of Health to make sure Washington women have all three.”

by Laurel Demkovich, Washington State Standard

Washington State Standard is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Washington State Standard maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Bill Lucia for questions: info@washingtonstatestandard.com. Follow Washington State Standard on Facebook and Twitter.

  1. No hospital has denied an abortion..in this state..per the news. Wonder who he’s trying to impress???

  2. I’m pleased that the Governor has reiterated our stand for emergency abortion care to ensure doctors are sure footed when they give medical care. As an aside: I have always wondered if men gave birth if they would limit THEIR access to medical care for unwanted pregnancy.

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