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Washington likely will see influx of women seeking abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned

Demonstrators protest outside of the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday, May 3, 2022 in Washington. A draft opinion suggests the U.S. Supreme Court could be poised to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion nationwide, according to a Politico report released Monday. Whatever the outcome, the Politico report represents an extremely rare breach of the court's secretive deliberation process, and on a case of surpassing importance.  (Jose Luis Magana)

Washington is set to become an abortion haven state if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling, as a draft opinion leaked to Politico suggests the high court will do later this year.

A 98-page draft majority opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court published by Politico would strike down the constitutional right to abortion established in Roe v. Wade.

The Supreme Court is not expected to officially rule on the Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization until this summer, and the official opinions, as well as who votes for them, could change before then.

Abortion providers stressed the draft opinion does not change current abortion access in the country right now but equated the pending decision to a crisis moment which advocates have been ringing alarms about for years.

“This is a draft opinion. It’s outrageous, it’s unprecedented, but it is not final,” a statement from Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho says. “Abortion is your right – and it is still legal. While abortion is still legal, tonight’s report makes clear that our deepest fears are coming true. We have reached a crisis moment for abortion access.”

The state of Washington likely would become even more important to women seeking an abortion if Roe v. Wade is struck down. Idaho lawmakers approved a ban on abortion after six weeks of pregnancy earlier this year. That law is on hold by the Idaho Supreme Court, but the state also approved a law in 2020 that will criminalize abortions in the state if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

Planned Parenthood health centers in Washington could expect to see a 385% increase in patients seeking abortion care if Roe v. Wade is overturned, Paul Dillon, vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho, told The Spokesman-Review earlier this year.

There are three clinics in Eastern Washington that offer abortions after 11 weeks of pregnancy. Those are in Spokane, Kennewick and Yakima, which serve many women from out-of-state.

There are 26 states where abortion would become illegal or likely become illegal if the U.S. Supreme Court indeed rules in this manner and strikes down the constitutional right to abortion, including Idaho, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

Although abortion is legal currently, access is strained by state laws that restrict the procedure. Abortion bans, like the six-week bans in Idaho and Texas, apply before most people find out they are pregnant.

Surgical abortions are not happening in several states due to six-week or 15-week abortion bans.

After Idaho Gov. Brad Little signed a similar measure to Texas’ ban this year, most women who need abortions in Idaho have to come across state lines unless they catch their pregnancy in the two-week window after a missed period. Even with the law on pause, abortion providers have warned about the law’s chilling effect on women seeking abortions.

Washington providers have seen an influx of women seeking abortions after Texas passed its six-week abortion ban last year, which has been allowed to stand despite the 15-week ban that is before the U.S. Supreme Court currently.

Washington lawmakers passed legislation that allows physician assistants and nurse practitioners to offer abortion services in their respective scope of practices. This will allow more providers to meet the increased demand for abortion services, which providers anticipate if Roe is overturned.

Abortion providers in the state praised the Washington Legislature’s efforts earlier this year.

“Just as we’re preparing for this influx of abortion patients and expecting the collapse of Roe v. Wade, it was important for us to advocate for it this session,” Dillon said in a March interview.

On Monday, Gov. Jay Inslee reiterated his commitment to keeping Washington open for abortions. “NOT HERE, NOT IN OUR LIFETIME,” he tweeted in reaction to the news that the U.S. Supreme Court might strike down Roe.

Sen. Patty Murray called for action Monday.

“It’s time for every single person – in every single state – to realize this impacts you, your choices, your rights,” Murray said in a statement Monday night. “It’s not happening to someone else, in some other state – it’s happening everywhere, and the highest court in the land is preparing to rip away your rights at this very moment. We need to fight back with everything we’ve got right now.”

While many Democrats in Washington’s Congressional delegation quickly issued statements decrying the draft ruling, all four members of Idaho’s delegation, all Republicans, were silent on the issue Monday evening.

Sen. Maria Cantwell wrote in a tweet late Monday: “Women’s lives and their health care are not political footballs. The right to privacy exists within our Constitution and must be defended.”

Arielle Dreher's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is primarily funded by the Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund, with additional support from Report for America and members of the Spokane community. These stories can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.