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Abortion, contraception the target of proposed Washington constitutional amendments

Amendments need to be approved by a two-thirds majority in the state House and Senate, along with voter approval.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Gov. Jay Inslee and several state legislators announced policies Friday morning aimed at protecting reproductive health in the 2023 legislative session.

Inslee said he is working to propose a constitutional amendment to enshrine the right to abortion access. The amendment would also enshrine the right to use or refuse contraceptive services.

Amendments need to be approved by a two-thirds majority in the state House and Senate, along with voter approval.

"Washington was a pro-choice state," Inslee said at a press conference Friday morning. "Washington state is a pro-choice state. We intend to make it a constitutional amendment to ensure Washington state will always be a pro-choice state.”

Inslee said the amendment needs to be included because state legislators have introduced 40 bills in the last few years to reduce women's rights to abortion access.

“There are threats every day to a woman’s right of choice in the state of Washington," Inslee said. "The gates have been thrown open to those malicious attempts to strip women of this women’s right of choice. Washington state needs to stop this Republican attempt. Not just this year, not just next year, but every year.”

Inslee said he intends to take statutory action in order to make Washington a sanctuary state. This would ensure any woman in America could come to Washington and have expanded reproductive rights. 

The latest numbers available from the State Department of Health show that of nearly 100,000 pregnancies in Washington in 2020, there were just over 16,000 abortions. A number that has dropped every year since 2014.

“The right of a woman to exercise her private right for this most intimate decision is a fundamental right that needs to be protected in the state of Washington constitution," Inslee said. 

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Protecting abortion rights has been a priority for the Washington governor, especially after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade this past summer.

In June, Inslee warned that abortion rights in Washington could be in danger if Republicans were able to claim a legislative majority.

Anti-abortion advocates believe the numbers are on their side. 

"We have a huge pro-life following in different parts of the state. King County, totally different story," Juanita Verbree of Lynden Human Life said.

Inslee issued a directive on July 1 instructing the Washington State Patrol to not cooperate with out-of-state abortion investigations, a preemptive move in case states where abortion is banned or significantly restricted seek to investigate whether their residents have traveled to the state. 

The governor signed a bill on March 17 to prohibit abortion lawsuits in Washington state. 

WATCH: Inslee, legislators discuss bills to protect abortion rights

State legislators also announced policies to strengthen protections for patients, including data protection and sanctuary policies. 

A poll released on July 19 indicated abortion will be one of the most important issues in the upcoming midterm elections. Of those who responded, 28% said abortion is the most important issue they are focused on going into the election. 

The bills are in the process of being written, Inslee said. More policies will be announced at another press conference on Oct. 28. 


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