Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Washington governor: Idahoans can undergo abortions in his state if Idaho restricts it

by NICOLE BLANCHARD Idaho Statesman
| March 22, 2022 7:00 AM

BOISE, Idaho — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday said his state will protect Idaho residents' access to abortion procedures as he signed a bill solidifying some health care workers' ability to perform abortions and forbidding Texas-style punishment for providers.

Washington's bill updated its Reproductive Privacy Act to formally include physician assistants and advanced registered nurse practitioners as clinicians who can perform abortion procedures. The bill also prevents the state from penalizing or punishing people who perform or assist in abortions.

Inslee said the bill comes at "a perilous time" and was spurred by other states' moves to restrict abortion — particularly recent moves made by Idaho lawmakers.

"To the citizens of Idaho, if Idaho will not stand up for your constitutional rights, we will," Inslee said as he signed the bill.

Idaho lawmakers on Monday approved a bill that would allow families to sue clinicians who perform abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy. The bill is headed to Idaho Gov. Brad Little's desk. He will have five days to veto the bill after receiving it.

Legislators said the six-week timeline coincides with the detection of a fetal heartbeat, though medical specialists have said the sound is actually electrical activity. Medical professionals have also argued that many people don't know they're pregnant by six weeks.

The bill is modeled after a Texas law passed last year that banned abortion after six weeks and allowed anyone — not just family — to sue abortion providers. The Texas law is being challenged in court.

Last year, Idaho passed a similar "fetal heartbeat bill" that would fully ban abortions after six weeks; however, the Legislature included a "trigger" in the bill that would only put it into effect if a federal appeals court upholds a similar law elsewhere — like in Texas.

There are only four medical facilities in Idaho that provide abortions, and three of them are Planned Parenthood facilities. All of them are located in southern Idaho. Idaho residents seeking abortions frequently travel out-of-state for procedures, Planned Parenthood officials say.

Paul Dillon, spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho, told the Tri-City Herald that Washington facilities expect to see an increase in Idaho patients if Little signs the bill.