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Inslee, legislators lay out first legislative proposals for protecting abortion in Washington

Oct. 21, 2022 Updated Fri., Oct. 21, 2022 at 8:14 p.m.

Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee speaks to media and people gathered at Kerry Park about patients’ rights to abortion and reproductive health care during a abortion rights rally on May 3 in Seattle.  (JASON REDMOND/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)
Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee speaks to media and people gathered at Kerry Park about patients’ rights to abortion and reproductive health care during a abortion rights rally on May 3 in Seattle. (JASON REDMOND/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)

Gov. Jay Inslee pledged again on Friday to amend the state constitution to codify the right to an abortion in Washington.

Inslee joined a number of other state legislators at Western Washington University in Bellingham on Friday to announce the first pieces of legislation they plan to propose to protect access to abortion and reproductive freedom in Washington.

The proposals include a constitutional amendment to enshrine the right to abortion access as well as to use or refuse contraception and strengthening data protection and sanctuary policies for patients. The exact bill language is still being written, according to Inslee’s office.

“We have to recognize there are storm clouds on our horizon in the state of Washington because there are those who would like to threaten the right of a woman to exercise her right of choice in the state of Washington,” Inslee said Friday.

Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade earlier this year, Inslee and Democratic state legislators pledged to maintain Washington as a safe place for people seeking an abortion, though they did not share any exact policy proposals at the time.

On Friday, Inslee said a constitutional amendment is necessary because there are threats every day to a woman’s right of choice in Washington.

A constitutional amendment would require approval from two-thirds of both the state Senate and House, which would require some support from Republicans. Any passed constitutional amendment would then go to the general election ballot and need a simple majority to pass.

Republican leaders have said they would not prioritize laws that change existing state laws on abortion, which voters approved in 1970 and 1991, and they’d rather focus on issues like law enforcement and addressing inflation.

Following the Dobbs v. Jackson decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade, Senate Republican Leader John Braun acknowledged that the Supreme Court decision did not change Washington’s current laws, which voters approved. The focus moving forward should be on better support for pregnant women who choose to give birth, he said in a statement.

But it’s not clear how many Republicans would support a constitutional amendment.

Inslee said they are going to do everything they can to get enough votes to pass in the Legislature to pass an amendment, though he said he would have to wait and see how the November general election changes the makeup of the two chambers.

Another proposal from Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond, and Rep. Vandana Slatter, D-Bellevue, would increase data privacy protections surrounding health data. The proposal would prohibit organizations from selling health data, block apps and websites from collecting and sharing health data without users’ consent, and require companies that collect personal health data to maintain a privacy policy.

“This law will give Washingtonians more control over how their health data is used,” Ferguson said in a statement. “This is a key part of protecting Washingtonians’ access to safe, private reproductive care – which is more urgent now than ever.”

Currently, some apps that track menstrual cycles and certain websites can sell sensitive information to data brokers, which can then be purchased by law enforcement to prosecute women who had an abortion or miscarriage in another state, according to Ferguson’s office.

The law also allows advertising firms or organizations to send anti-abortion messaging and ads while at a certain location, such as a reproductive health care facility. Ferguson’s new law would prohibit companies from doing that.

Dhingra said it is “unconscionable” that searches are used against patients.

“We are not going back in Washington,” Dhingra said at Western Washington University. “We are going to be that beacon of hope for the rest of the country.”

Laurel Demkovich's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story 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.

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