Jun 23, 2023 - News

How abortions have changed in Washington post-Dobbs decision

Data: #WeCount/Society of Family Planning; Note: Includes abortions provided by clinics, private medical offices, hospitals and virtual-only clinics. Chart: Axios Visuals

In the year since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Washington has absorbed more abortion patients from out of state — and the state Legislature has taken steps to try to protect those patients and their doctors.

Why it matters: The changes in Washington show that last June's ruling — which eliminated federal protections for abortion — has had repercussions even in states where the procedure remains legal.

  • As of last month, 20 states had banned or restricted abortion, a reflection of the fallout from the Supreme Court's ruling last year.

Flashback: Washington voters embedded Roe v. Wade's abortion rights in state law through a 1991 ballot measure.

By the numbers: Between April 2022 and March 2023, Washington saw its number of monthly abortions increase by 16.5%, or an additional 290 procedures per month, according to the Society of Family Planning.

Zoom in: Abortion clinics in Central and Eastern Washington have noticed a big influx of out-of-state patients, particularly from Idaho, in recent months, Karl Eastlund, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho, told Axios.

  • Since August, when Idaho implemented a near-total abortion ban, the organization has seen about 100 more abortion visits per month across its 11 clinics — about a 20% to 30% increase from before, Eastlund said.
  • He called that increase "profound" given that before last year, the Washington clinics had "seen abortion numbers going down, since we have been doing so much work with birth control."

To handle the extra patients, Eastlund said his organization has increased its staffing by about 10 people, including two who focus on assisting patients from out of state. The clinic network now employs about 160, he said.

  • The Washington clinics also have increased the amount of time they devote to performing abortions, sometimes by shifting time in the schedule away from other women's health or family planning services, Eastlund said.

Plus: Washington state lawmakers passed a series of measures this year intended to limit the reach of other states' anti-abortion laws, including blocking Washington law enforcement from cooperating with other states' abortion-related investigations.

  • Republicans largely weren't supportive of those efforts, with one GOP state lawmaker saying Washington's new abortion shield law would "promote abortion tourism."

Between the lines: Democrats are hoping GOP opposition to abortion protections will help boost voter turnout for them next year, Axios' Eugene Scott writes.

  • "The goal absolutely is to pass a bill in Congress that protects the rights of women in every state in our country to make their own health care decisions," U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) told Axios Seattle last week.
  • But, she said, "it's going to take an electoral change. We need more pro-choice members of Congress in order to pass these."

What we're watching: Murray said Democrats will continue trying to pass legislation at the federal level that would protect doctors who perform abortions, as well as to stop states from targeting women who travel out of state for the procedure.

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