Jun 24, 2022 - News

What the end of Roe v. Wade means for Washington state

What will happen immediately in each state now that Roe v Wade has been overturned
Data: Axios Research; Cartogram: Sara Wise and Oriana Gonzalez/Axios

Friday's highly anticipated Supreme Court opinion means the end of Roe v. Wade — but in Washington state, it doesn't mean the end of legal abortion.

State of play: Three decades ago, Washington voters took it upon themselves to enact a state law protecting abortion rights.

  • The measure they approved, Initiative 120, insulates the state from most potential impacts of Roe being overturned.
  • That 30-year-old law guarantees a person's right to end a pregnancy at any time before a fetus can survive outside the womb (generally considered 24 weeks into pregnancy), or even later to protect the health of the birth parent.

Separately, a new Washington state law approved earlier this year bans lawsuits against people seeking abortions and those who aid the procedure — a response to anti-abortion laws recently passed in conservative states.

Yes, but: Now that Roe is overturned, state officials and abortion advocates in Washington state expect to see an influx of new patients from states like Idaho, which has a trigger law that will criminalize abortion now that the Supreme Court has ruled.

What's next: Gov. Jay Inslee told Axios last week that he wants to go even further by passing a constitutional amendment protecting abortion rights in Washington state.

  • Such an amendment would be more difficult to overturn than the current law, he said, and would provide even more assurance that abortion will stay legal in Washington.
  • But a constitutional amendment is a political long shot: it would require a two-thirds vote within the state Legislature to get on the ballot. And Democrats' majorities in the Legislature aren't quite that strong.

The big picture: Instead, lawmakers are more likely to focus on stopping religious hospital mergers that could restrict abortion access.

  • Legislators also told Axios they are looking at ways to protect Washington doctors — as well as incoming patients — from the reach of other states' laws that seek to punish people who participate in abortions.

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