Apr 27, 2023 - Health

Washington enacts abortion protections to counteract red state laws

Illustration of a wooden and metal shield in the shape of a health plus.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Washington is now one of a dozen states that have enacted laws to try to stop other states' restrictive abortion policies from crossing state lines.

Driving the news: Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill into law Thursday that will prevent law enforcement officials and courts in Washington from aiding other states' abortion-related investigations.

  • That could help shield clinicians who perform abortions from legal liability under other states' laws, as well as protect patients who travel to Washington to get an abortion from legal threats in their home state, his office said.

Why it matters: Since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade last year, 19 states have moved to ban or restrict abortion, Axios' Oriana Gonzalez reports. That has prompted several blue states, including Washington, to try to limit the reach of those laws.

The big picture: Also Thursday, Minnesota's governor signed an abortion shield law, bringing the total number of states with such laws to 12, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights, which tracks such policies.

  • The governors of Colorado and New Mexico signed similar measures into law earlier this month.

What they're saying: The new law ensures "freedom from intrusion by any politician or any government in the most intimate, private decision by a woman," Inslee said shortly before signing the measure, which took effect immediately.

Of note: The new law also blocks police and courts in Washington from assisting other states' investigations into gender-affirming care, which several states have moved to restrict.

The other side: State Sen. Mike Padden (R-Spokane Valley) argued in an April 10 floor speech that the measure would "promote abortion tourism," and that it crosses a line by trying to negate other states' laws.

  • Other critics in the Legislature worried that if Washington doesn't assist with other states' investigations, law enforcement in those states might stop sharing information with Washington officials, too.

Plus: Additional bills Inslee signed into law Thursday aim to:

  • Protect doctors from disciplinary consequences if they provide care in violation of another state's laws;
  • Prevent data from period-tracking apps from being shared without users' consent, so the information can't be used as evidence in abortion-related legal proceedings;
  • Ensure abortion pills remain available in Washington;
  • Cut out-of-pocket costs insured patients must pay for abortions.
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