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Washington state providers preparing for out-of-state patients seeking abortion

According to a study, Washington state could see a 385% increase in patients seeking an abortion with the most coming from Idaho.

SEATTLE — Washington state healthcare providers are expecting to see an influx of patients seeking abortion services who are coming from other states.

A Seattle-area OBGYN Dr. Charlie Browne said just hours after the Supreme Court's ruling to overturn federal abortion protections, he was flooded with calls from out-of-state patients seeking an abortion.

Browne said he’s received death threats in the days before the Supreme Court's official ruling, but said the decision’s impacts are too important not to speak out.

“Just within the first few hours of clinic after the SCOTUS announcement, we probably saw an increase of about 25% of calls from patients who were outside of Washington state,” Browne said.

Washington is set to become a refuge for those seeking abortion care. The state could see a 385% increase in patients looking to get an abortion with the most patients coming from Idaho, according to a study released by the Guttmacher Institute.

Browne said clinics are working to add more hours and days of service to accommodate the influx, but he expects it to put a strain on healthcare providers.

“We're not going to turn patients away, whether they're from Washington or not. So what it does is it puts a certain load on any particular clinic,” said Browne.

Local leaders are pledging to give more money to bolster abortion care. Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell wants to invest $250,000 to the Northwest Abortion Access Fund. King County Executive Dow Constantine announced $1 million in emergency funding to help with the anticipated influx of patients.

Gov. Jay Inslee also pledged to welcome women from out of state.

“We are going to be alert to make sure those services are available and we have enough resources to do that,” Inslee said.

Not all lawmakers in Olympia agree.

“[The ruling] is a celebration if you've been working at it for you know, 40 years or more like I have, “ said Sen. Mike Padden, R- Spokane Valley.

The Republican senator went on to say, “The majority said that the state does have a legitimate interest in prenatal life, reserving that, and then the protection of maternal health and safety. I’ve always believed that.”

Sen. Padden however, doesn’t support the state giving more funding to abortion care.

“I think we could spend that money in a much better way, rather than in aiding the destruction of innocent human life,” Padden said.

While a surge of patients are expected to come to Washington, Browne said the patients who don’t have the means to travel are impacted the most, 

“Those are going to be minority populations, they're going to be people who, don't have insurance,” Browne said.

KING 5 did reach out to Governor Inslee’s office asking if the governor has any plans to call lawmakers into a special session to allocate more state funding to help with the anticipated surge in patients.

At the time of this report, the governor’s office has not responded. Inslee will hold a news conference about the ruling on Saturday morning that will be available to watch on KING5.com and the free KING 5 mobile app.


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