As a growing number of states begin to enact abortion bans and federal lawmakers pledge to pursue a nationwide ban, Governor Jay Inslee and Democratic lawmakers gathered today in Bellingham to begin to rolling out their advocacy agenda for the 2023 legislative session.
Representative Sharon Shewmake previewed a sanctuary policy that will provide patients and providers with legal tools and protections if criminal or civil action is taken against them for lawfully receiving or providing reproductive health care services or gender affirmation services in Washington. These policies will act as both a shield and a sword, to the fullest extent permitted by law. The bill, which will be sponsored by Rep. Drew Hansen, will help protect patients in states like Texas or Idaho from penalties for lawfully seeking and receiving lawful health care services in the state of Washington.
Senator Manka Dhingra and Representative Vandana Slatter announced a health data bill that will close a glaring legal loophole that allows non-medical organizations to collect, share or sell private health information. The bill also prohibits the collection of data on specific locations related to reproductive and gender-affirming care. Attorney General Bob Ferguson calls for the legislation.
Inslee also asserted that he will seek legislation to pursue a constitutional amendment that expressly establishes a fundamental right to abortion and a fundamental right to choose or refuse contraceptives.
“We have storm clouds on the horizon. There are those who would threaten a woman’s right of choice,” Inslee said. “This right must be enshrined in the fundamental basic document of the state: our constitution. This private right and the most intimate decision must be protected.”
“Each year, new bills are introduced to prohibit or restrict basic freedoms,” Rep. Sharon Shewmake said. “Politicians in Olympia or DC have no right to make this decision for women.”
“I am honored to introduce the Washington My Health, My Data Act,” said Rep. Vandana Slatter. “We must ensure that reproductive health care is accessible, affordable, safe and private. Information about private health care decisions cannot be collected, shared or bought and sold without our consent.”
“Searching and geolocation can be used against you for criminal prosecution,” Senator Manka Dhingra said. “Not in Washington. My health, my data. We have to be a beacon of hope for the rest of the country.”
Inslee said lawmakers will announce additional abortion access protection bills next week, including one that will address the impacts of hospital mergers.
In the months following the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the United States Supreme Court, 13 states have enacted bans on all or nearly all abortions. Nearly half of states are expected to similarly limit abortion care services.
Immediately after the Dobbs decision in June, Inslee joined the governors of California and Oregon in launching a multi-state commitment to reproductive freedom. Inslee and lawmakers then announced their intention to pursue a series of policies aimed at increasing access to and support for abortion providers and patients. At that press conference, Inslee announced that he was making $1 million in emergency funds available to reproductive care clinics, and he issued a directive to the Washington State Patrol to refuse to cooperate with abortion-related investigative requests from agencies in states with severe abortion restrictions. .
Representative Vandana Slatter, Representative Sharon Shewmake, Governor Jay Inslee, Senator Manka Dhingra, Western Washington University student Isabella Arnett, Senator Liz Lovelett, first wife Trudi Inslee and WWU Executive Director for the counseling, health and wellness, Dr. Sislena Ledbetter gathered Oct. 21 at the WWU campus in Bellingham, Wash. to announce a pro-choice legislative agenda for the legislative session of 2023.
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