As increasing numbers of states begin to enact abortion bans and federal lawmakers vow to pursue a national ban, Gov. Jay Inslee and Democratic lawmakers met today in Bellingham to begin rolling out their choice-defending agenda for the 2023 legislative session.
Rep. Sharon Shewmake previewed a sanctuary policy that will provide patients and providers with legal tools and protections if any criminal or civil action is commenced against them for lawfully receiving or providing reproductive health care services or gender-affirming services in Washington. These policies will act as both a shield and a sword, to the greatest extent allowable by law. The bill, which will be sponsored by Rep. Drew Hansen, will help protect patients from states like Texas or Idaho from being punished for lawfully seeking and receiving legal health care services in Washington state.
Sen. Manka Dhingra and Rep. Vandana Slatter announced a health data bill that will close an egregious legal loophole that allows non-health care organizations to collect, share or sell private health information. The bill also prohibits collecting data on specific locations related to reproductive and gender-affirming care. Attorney General Bob Ferguson is requesting the legislation.
Inslee also affirmed he will be requesting legislation to pursue a constitutional amendment that expressly establishes a fundamental right to an abortion and a fundamental right to choose or refuse contraceptives.
"We have storm clouds on the horizon. There are those that would like to threaten a woman's right of choice," said Inslee. "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."
"Every single year, new bills are introduced to ban or restrict basic freedoms," said Rep. Sharon Shewmake. "Politicians in Olympia or D.C. have no right making this decision for women."
"I am honored to introduce the Washington My Health, My Data act," said Rep. Vandana Slatter. "We have to 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."
"Searches and geolocation can be used against you for criminal prosecution," said Sen. Manka Dhingra. "Not in Washington. My health, my data. We need to be a beacon of hope for the rest of the country."
Inslee said legislators will be announcing additional abortion access protection bills next week, including one that will address the impacts of hospital mergers.
In the months since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, 13 states have enacted bans on all or nearly all abortions. Nearly half of states are expected to similarly limit abortion care services.
Immediately following the Dobbs decision in June, Inslee joined the governors from California and Oregon to launch a multi-state commitment to reproductive freedom. Inslee and legislators then announced their intent to pursue a range of policies to strengthen access and support for abortion providers and patients. At that press conference Inslee announced he was making $1 million in emergency funds available for reproductive care clinics, and he issued a directive to the Washington State Patrol to refuse to cooperate with investigatory requests related to abortion that come from agencies in states with severe abortion limits.
Rep. Vandana Slatter, Rep. Sharon Shewmake, Gov. Jay Inslee, Sen. Manka Dhingra, Western Washington University student Isabella Arnett, Sen. Liz Lovelett, First Spouse Trudi Inslee, and WWU executive director for counseling, health and wellness Dr. Sislena Ledbetter met on Oct. 21 at the WWU campus in Bellingham, Wash. to announce a pro-choice legislative agenda for the 2023 legislative session.