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Tue. Jun 18th, 2024

Insle’s directive requires emergency abortion care in Washington state hospitals

By meerna Jun12,2024

Washington Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee issued an executive order Tuesday requiring the Washington State Department of Health to ensure hospitals in the state provide emergency abortion services. The directive requires all hospitals to offer these services, even if doctors object and no alternative provider is available.

The order fills a gap in state statute that did not require hospitals, clinics and the doctors who work in them to perform “emergency abortions” if a woman needed one.

“Unfortunately, the bill does not provide specific clarity regarding abortion services, so this will clarify that the bill specifically covers abortion services,” Inslee said.

Washington legalized abortion in 1970 and has a long history of legal protection for women who want it and the doctors who perform it. State law already requires Washington hospitals to provide necessary emergency health care based on nationally recognized standards, including emergency abortion care.

Asked if the order was a solution to the problem, Inslee replied: “Some hospitals have adopted regulations that limit access to services. We believe this will reduce opportunities for people to refuse to use these services.”

The Washington State Hospital Association opposed this, writing in response to Inslee’s order: “There is no evidence that Washington hospitals fail to provide adequate emergency care.”

“Hospitals’ commitment to emergency care includes a commitment to provide a range of services that some people might have a moral compulsion to provide,” WSHA CEO Cassie Sauer said in response to Inslee’s order. “We do not agree with any restrictions on the hospital’s provision of emergency services.”

Why Inslee thinks addressing abortion care in Washington needs to happen now

Inslee’s directive requires the Department of Health to issue policy guidance clarifying hospitals’ legal obligations, confirming that potential Supreme Court rulings have no impact on state law.

The executive order was issued as the nation approached two years since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned Roe v. Wade. (A PDF of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision can be viewed here.) The timing is critical as the U.S. Supreme Court is set to rule in Idaho v. United States and Moyle v. United States, cases that could allow politicians to criminalize medical emergencies room to perform emergency abortions.

“This is, in a sense, a preventive measure against the Supreme Court’s decision. That’s why we’re taking it today and not waiting because we can pick it up at any time,” Inslee said.

Emergency abortion is sometimes necessary when the patient is experiencing a medical emergency. The Supreme Court’s ruling could undermine the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), a federal law requiring hospitals to provide all patients with necessary emergency treatment, including abortion care.

Inslee said the order ensures abortion for Washington residents and anyone out of state who needs it when it’s a life-or-death matter. He said he did not expect a legal challenge if a situation arises in which a doctor or hospital refuses to perform an abortion on religious grounds.

Matt Markovich frequently covers state legislation and public policy for KIRO Newsradio. You can read more of Matt’s stories here. Follow him Xor write to him here.

By meerna

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