Taking a stand for freedom of choice, Gov. Jay Inslee has signed into law a provision barring legal action against people seeking an abortion and those who aid them. The governor, acting earlier this month, said the legislation, HB 1851, was needed “because this is such a perilous time for those seeking freedom of choice, something they have enjoyed for decades.”
Inslee minced no words, proclaiming “if Idaho won’t stand up for your rights, I will.” The signing came just days after Idaho enacted legislation to allow lawsuits by “potential family members” to enforce an abortion ban after six weeks into pregnancy, a time when many are not aware of their condition.
The Idaho law is modeled after Texas legislation that, although challenged as unconstitutional, was left standing by the U. S. Supreme Court. That law permits anyone, living anywhere, to bring a lawsuit against those seeking an abortion or anyone,such as a taxi driver, aiding that individual. Texas allows plaintiffs, if successful, to collect $10,000. Provisions in the Idaho law differ somewhat, permitting the father, grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles of a so-called “pre-born child” to sue any time within four years and collect $20,000 in damages.
A dozen other states are poised to follow Texas’ lead. The flurry of laws anticipates the Supreme Court’s almost certain weakening or overturning Roe v. Wade this term. To date 12 states have passed so-called “trigger laws,” immediately banning abortion in the event of the Court overturning Roe v. Wade.
Meanwhile, Washington, along with 15 other states and D. C., has laws that protect reproductive rights. Washington’s new legislation, which goes into effect next June 9, underscores the state’s long-time (since 1970) pro-choice position. The law adds updated non-gendered language (“pregnant individuals”) and affirms that care can be provided by registered nurse practitioners and physician assistants.
The expanded increase in this state’s capacity to deliver care is timely, since any weakening or overturning of Roe v. Wade will guarantee a large influx of patients traveling to this state from states with abortion bans like Idaho and Montana.
In facing this influx, Washington and other pro-choice states are likely to benefit from a surprise donation from MacKenzie Scott, co-founder of Amazon (along with ex-husband Jeff Bezos). Philanthropist Scott announced in her blog that she and her husband Dan Jewett are donating $275 million to Planned Parenthood of AmerIca and its 21 affiliates. The couple has also contributed $15 million to Guttmacher Institute, a pro-choice research institute that works to educate, study, and advance sexual and reproductive rights.
Scott’s gifts will be welcomed, but it is tragic that nearly 50 years after the Roe v. Wade decision, reproductive rights remain under attack in two dozen U. S. states. One has only to read what legislators are saying in statehouses like Colorado where pro-choice legislators spent hours engaged in a fierce floor before finally passing a law that protects reproductive rights. Noting the effort involved and long hours expended, Sen. Rhonda Fields (D-Aurora) said, “It’s time for government to get out of this business of trying to tell women what to do when it comes to their bodies.”