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Lawmakers seek protections for abortion access in Washington state

On Tuesday, Senator Cantwell and King County’s Executive announced the new steps they are taking to protect access to abortions in Washington.

SEATTLE — In Washington state, where abortion remains legal, more people are seeking help, according to Jennifer Allen, the Chief Executive Officer at Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates.

"We are seeing patients from all over the country already,” said Allen.

Allen said that began right after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, and a number of states started banning or blocking abortions. The Washington State Medical Association (WSMA) is concerned it will eventually overwhelm clinics here.

"They are looking at information like the Guttmacher study that said we could get a 385% increase,” said Dr. Nariman Heshmati with the Washington State Medical Association.

The Guttmacher Institute found that 17,980 abortions were obtained in 2020 in the state, and lists Washington as protective when it comes to abortion rights.

"We don't know what it will mean to our system… when abortion becomes illegal in Idaho and when many, many more patients start crossing the border for care,” said Allen.

On Tuesday, Sen. Maria Cantwell acknowledged the other worry in Washington, the potential of punishment for patients who travel here and for the care providers too.

"They should continue to provide that reproductive choice without the concern that someone from another state, an attorney general or law enforcement officer is going to try to pursue them or their license,” said senator Cantwell.

King County Executive Dow Constantine took some action around that issue.

"I am signing an executive order to prohibit the use of county resources to impede reproductive health care,” Constantine said during a news conference on Tuesday afternoon.

Senator Cantwell is calling on the Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney General to provide clarity about which laws in other states put patients and those who provide abortions in Washington at risk.

"We will consider pursuing national legislation if necessary to protect this healthcare delivery system,” said Sen. Cantwell.

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