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How President Biden's executive order to protect abortion access impacts Washington

An attorney said parts of Biden's executive order are crucial as Washington state becomes a refuge for those seeking an abortion.

SEATTLE — Protestors in Seattle and across the nation continue taking to the streets fighting for abortion rights. President Biden recently signed an executive order aimed at protecting access to abortion.

Abortion and family law attorney Deirdre Bowen said Biden’s executive order is more of a policy statement, with the goal of bolstering what the federal government can do with laws already on the books.

Parts of President Biden’s executive order ensure Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved medications for abortion remain widely accessible, makes sure contraception is available, and protects patient privacy when women seek out reproductive medical services.

“This is all brand new territory,” said Bowen, who also is a law professor at Seattle University.

Bowen is navigating the law in a post-Roe world. She said there are parts of Biden’s executive order that are crucial to Washington, a state that continues to offer legal abortions.

“It is unclear right now, what that looks like in terms of a criminal prosecution for somebody living in Washington state who did assist or provided funding,” said Bowen.

Bowen said the federal government is going to clarify how federal law applies in these situations, but things are still murky.

Part of President Biden's order is to create an inter-agency task force to help states that give legal protection to out-of-state patients and providers.

“The more important piece is making sure that there is defense for those providers, like doctors or nurse practitioners, or other individuals who provide assistance in getting the service,” said Bowen.

Biden’s order brings some relief to practitioners. Lora Shahine, a reproductive endocrinologist, sent a statement to KING 5 saying in part, 

“It's a confusing time and my patients and colleagues are nervous about the continued fallout of the overturn of Roe, but this commitment to fight for reproductive rights from President Biden is reassuring."

Bowen suggests out-of- state patients complete their treatment in Washington to avoid possible criminal liability

“We don't know clearly what the implications are of providing some medical treatment in Washington state, but the remainder of the treatment occurring back in their home state,” said Bowen.

This week, King County Executive Dow Constantine signed an executive order giving $1 million in emergency funding to help with the influx of those seeking an abortion, with half of that allocated to Northwest Abortion Access Fund. 

On Capitol Hill, House lawmakers will vote to codify Roe v Wade and protect interstate travel for abortions.

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