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Tue. Jun 25th, 2024

Gov. Jay Inslee says Washington will make clear that hospitals must provide emergency abortions

By meerna Jun12,2024

SEATTLE (AP) – Gov Jay Inslee on Tuesday said Washington would specify in state law that hospitals must provide abortions if needed to stabilize patients, which comes as the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling later this month on whether conservative states may ban abortion in certain medical emergencies.

There is no indication that patients were denied emergency abortions in Washington, but the Democrat said during a news conference in Seattle that he wanted to dispel any doubt that hospitals are required to provide such services if necessary.

“It’s a preemptive measure against the Supreme Court’s decision,” Inslee said. “If your health is harmed in any way as a result of failure to use emergency services, you should have the right to use those services.”

Most Republican-controlled states have imposed restrictions on abortion since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade two years ago, eliminating the right to terminate a pregnancy under federal law. Fourteen of the few exceptions banned abortion at all stages of pregnancy.

Among them is Idaho, which bans abortions except in life-threatening situations and allows doctors to face up to five years in prison for violations. The Biden administration has filed a lawsuit to block Idaho’s ban, arguing that federal law requires hospitals that accept Medicare to perform emergency abortions when the patient’s health, but not necessarily her life, is at risk.

The Supreme Court allowed Idaho’s ban to go into effect after reviewing the case, and a ruling is expected by the end of this month.

Most Democrat-controlled states have passed laws or passed ordinances to protect access to abortion, including Washington, which has stocked up on a three-year supply of abortion drugs in case federal court rulings limit their availability.

Washington also increased funding for reproductive care clinics, banned the State Patrol from cooperating with out-of-state abortion investigations and passed a shield law protecting patients who have abortions in Washington from extradition to face charges in another state.

Abortion rights supporters say the bans have already impacted the emergency care provided to pregnant women. More women whose conditions are typically treated with abortion must now be flown out of state for care because doctors must wait until they are close to death to provide abortions within the limits of state law.

Washington’s administrative code states that hospitals must provide emergency services to patients, but so far does not specifically say it applies to emergency abortions. Insle directed the state Department of Health to change that.

“State law already requires Washington State Hospitals to provide emergency care to people experiencing these types of pregnancy-related complications,” the Washington State Hospital Association said in a written statement. “Washington hospitals provide this care, including to people who have crossed the border from Idaho and need care.”

Inslee says the number of women coming to Washington from out of state for abortions has increased by 50% since the Supreme Court overturned Roe.

Dr. Sarah Prager, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Washington, said Tuesday that she had treated patients who had traveled to Washington over the past two years because they could not get care at home – including one with premature rupture of the mucous membranes and an infected uterus, another with a complicated ectopic pregnancy that was at risk of rupturing, and a third that was bleeding due to an incomplete miscarriage.

“When I or any physician has a sick patient in front of me, I should not have to stop and consult with the hospital’s legal team to find out whether I have the capacity to act,” Prager said. “These wasted moments can cost patients their health, future fertility and even their lives.”

Abortion opponents say doctors mishandled maternal emergencies and say the Biden administration has exaggerated the dangers by undermining state abortion bans.

“We want the highest standard of care for women and we make an exception for abortion to save the mother’s life,” including in cases of ectopic pregnancy, said Esther Ripplinger, president of Human Life in Washington. “But when to say that ‘health’ is at risk – that’s an interesting proposition, because now ‘health’ can mean, ‘Oh, I have a headache, I need an abortion.’ … We need to be very specific about what this emergency situation is and what it is not.”

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Associated Press reporter Geoff Mulvihill contributed from Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

By meerna

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