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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

‘Extremist,’ a ‘most momentous day’: Local lawmakers, officials react to overturning of Roe v. Wade

Hundreds of abortion-rights supporters gather in May for a “Bans Off Our Bodies” rally in Riverfront Park.  (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVI)

The Supreme Court’s decision Friday to revoke a Constitutional protection for abortion drew an impassioned response from lawmakers in the Inland Northwest.

The decision automatically starts a 30-day countdown in Idaho that will effectively criminalize abortion by the end of July, and prompted pledges in Washington to either defend the state’s law authorizing abortion up until fetal viability or to question that protection, in light of the high court’s actions that effectively kicks the question back to the states.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, called Friday “one of the most momentous days in American history for the dignity and sanctity of every human life.”

“This is just the beginning of a new era to define the human rights issue of our generation and to provide care, hope and support for moms and children at every stage of their lives,” McMorris Rodgers said in a statement.

U.S. Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, said the Supreme Court’s decision represents a “major step” to correct what he described was a wrong decision in Roe v. Wade.

“The most basic right we as humans have is the right to life. I have immense empathy for any expecting mother in difficult circumstances. As the greatest country in the history of human civilization, we should support those mothers to the best of our ability.”

Others said the decision sent the country backward, not forward, by overturning decades of legal precedent in one fell swoop.

“Today, Republicans dragged this country backwards by half a century,” U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said in a statement. “Republicans ripped away our rights and made this generation the first generation of American women with fewer rights than their mothers.”

Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, called the decision a “victory.”

“As a member of the House of Representatives, I will continue to guard against legislation that threatens the unborn and will use my voice to spread the pro-life message of hope that is so central to our movement,” Simpson said in a statement.

Abortions are legal in Washington through the Reproductive Privacy Act, though state Republicans have introduced around 40 bills in the past six years to roll back those rights, said Gov. Jay Inslee, who added that the right of choice should not depend on party majority.

“Washington state remains steadfast in our commitment to protecting the ability and right of every patient who comes to our state in need of abortion care, and we will fight like hell to restore that right to patients all across the country,” Inslee said in a statement.

Senate Republican Leader John Braun, R-Centralia, similarly said protecting those rights should be a common goal for all, regardless of politics.

“Compassion and empathy, rather than hostility, should be the universal approach,” Braun said in a statement. “I’m hoping this is how we all move forward.”

Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig, D-Spokane, called the decision “wildly out of step of the majority of all Americans and certainly Washingtonians.” He called on voters to ensure Democrats remain in power in the Legislature in order to ensure the right to abortion services remains intact in the state.

“Republicans in this state, just like Republicans in other states, would absolutely strip Washingtonians of these rights and criminalize health care if they ever gained control of the legislature,” Billig said in a statement.

Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, suggested the Legislature review measures placing new restrictions on abortion in Washington in light of Friday’s decision.

“In the state of Washington, we have a lot of work to do to get some reasonable limits to the radical extremist pro-abortion policy that allows abortion at any time, for any reason,” Padden said in a statement.

He specifically mentioned measures that include parental notification before an abortion and the elimination of abortions based on the gender of the child or the revelation of a diagnosis of Down syndrome.

Padden is the ranking Republican on the Senate’s Law and Justice Committee.

Describing the Supreme Court’s ruling as “an extremist position,” Attorney Bob Ferguson said the ruling will strain Washington’s health care network as people from Idaho and other states seek care.

Promising to protect reproductive rights in the state for anyone who needs them so long as he is in office, Ferguson said he and his office will look for opportunities either to bring or support legal efforts to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision.

“My legal team challenged President Trump’s ‘gag rule’ in federal court in Eastern Washington and won a nationwide injunction,” he said in the statement. “We helped defeat Trump’s contraception access rule. We will never stop fighting for reproductive justice.”

Inslee, along with his counterparts in California and Oregon, affirmed those states would remain places where abortion care would be provided.

“The right of choice should not depend on which party holds the majority, but that’s where we find ourselves,” Inslee said in a statement, joined by Govs. Kate Brown of Oregon and Gavin Newsom of California, all Democrats.

Gov. Brad Little of Idaho said he welcomed Friday’s decision, noting that he’d signed one of the country’s so-called “trigger laws” that take effect should the Supreme Court rule, as it did Friday, that states have the authority to prohibit abortion.

“Today’s decision is the culmination of pro-life efforts to defend the defenseless – preborn babies who deserve protection,” Little said. “It also is an affirmation of states’ rights, a fundamental aspect of our American government.”

Idaho is one of more than a dozen states that has adopted trigger laws. Idaho’s law states the criminalization of abortion, except to prevent the mother from dying or in cases of rape and incest documented by law enforcement, shall begin at the end of next month.

Those found guilty, including health care providers who perform abortion care, face a criminal penalty of between two and five years in prison.

In his statement, Little also said the state must take seriously its responsibility to support families.

“We absolutely must come together like never before to support women and teens facing unexpected or unwanted pregnancies,” Little said, adding that the government and private entities, including churches and families, bear that responsibility.

U.S. Rep. Russ Fulcher called the decision a “historic announcement” by the Supreme Court.

“Since the Roe decision in 1973, America has endured the tragedy of some 63 million abortions,” Fulcher said in a statement. “I am proud that Idaho has already enacted legislation that prohibits abortion upon the repeal of Roe.”

Tom Luna, chair of the Idaho Republican Party, also lauded the ruling overturning Roe, which he called “flawed.”

“The Idaho Republican Party unequivocally stands for life, and we commend Governor Little, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, our state legislature, and Republican leaders in Idaho for fighting to defend the right to life,” Luna said in a statement.