Initiative gives WA people authorized guidance for abortion treatment

Initiative gives WA people authorized guidance for abortion treatment


1 gate of the car or truck entrance to entry the Legislative Constructing was shut Friday, April 2, as Washington State Patrol heightened its security existence in response to functions in Washington, D.C.

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Abortion health care providers and those seeking reproductive medical care can now request free pro bono legal assistance thanks to a new nationwide legal services program with local resources.

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson alerted Washington residents Thursday about the program, Abortion Defense Network. Ferguson said that, though abortion is legal in Washington state, he believes the legal service initiative will alleviate confusion among health care providers and women seeking out-of-state medical care.

“Radical laws in other states are creating chaos for providers, out-of-state patients and individuals assisting their friends and family to access health care,” Ferguson stated in a press release. “The changing legal landscape is causing providers and others to question whether they face legal jeopardy by helping someone come to Washington for legal abortion care. This resource will help them navigate these important issues and protect their freedoms.”

The online resource is especially useful to individuals from states where abortion is banned and choose to travel to other states for care. In July 2022, more than three-quarters of patients at Planned Parenthood’s Pullman abortion clinic were Idaho residents, according to a report from Washington news site Crosscut. Abortion is banned in Idaho.

New York-based abortion advocacy organization Lawyering Project is managing the resource network and is partnering with various other organizations. Ferguson said that the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, Seattle-based women’s rights organization Legal Voice and the network of reproductive rights legal professionals If/When/How provided training to Washington attorneys.

“As states like Idaho seek to reach across their borders and criminalize legal behavior in states like Washington and Oregon, we want to make sure our doctors and patients continue to be protected,” Wendy Heist, senior reproductive rights counsel with Legal Voice, said in an email to The News Tribune. “In short, while abortion is legal in Washington, we are doing everything we can so that anyone coming here for an abortion, and anyone providing an abortion, remain protected and are as knowledgeable as possible.”

Brian Robick, communications director with the ACLU of Washington, stressed that Washington state residents and health care providers shouldn’t fear repercussions to abortion care. In an email to The News Tribune, he added that “states across the country are eradicating abortion access and so this training was to help those involved with abortion care navigate this confusing and hostile legal landscape.”

Legal assistance for abortions

The Center for Reproductive Rights, one of the organizations partnering with the Lawyering Project on the Abortion Defense Network program, says health care providers and those seeking medical care can check out the initiative’s website for information about:

  • Legal rights pertaining to abortion care.

  • What to know about threats of arrest, prosecution and other legal action related to abortion.

  • How to access organizations that have funding for attorney’s fees, bail and bond fees and other legal costs related to abortion.

When you submit information to the Abortion Defense Network, a representative from the Lawyering Project will contact you to assess your needs. They will then connect you to the appropriate legal service provider. Attorneys who are part of the initiative will provide legal advice and defense in criminal and civil cases. Some are offering their services for free.

Ferguson’s office created a fact sheet that outlines Washingtonians’ legal rights to abortion care. The flier includes information on state residents’ guaranteed rights, health care confidentiality, abortion insurance coverage, out-of-state patients’ rights and other birth control entitlements such as contraception.

High-risk pregnancy and abortion

During pregnancy, women can develop life-threatening medical complications. In these situations, abortion is necessary to save the patient’s life.

Research shows that legal abortion is significantly safer than going through with a risky pregnancy. According to the Pew Research Center, legal abortions performed from 2013 to 2019 resulted in 0.43 deaths per 100,000 operations. However, deaths stemming from pregnancy-related conditions have gradually risen since the 1980s. The maternal mortality rate in 2020 was around 24 deaths per 100,000 live births, or 861 women. The CDC also notes that around three in five maternal deaths are preventable and disproportionately affect women of color.

The Mayo Clinic states these medical conditions can threaten the life of a pregnant woman and unborn child:

  • Pulmonary hypertension: This is a condition characterized by high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs and arteries carrying blood from the heart to the lungs.

  • Ectopic pregnancy: This is when a fertilized egg implants outside the uterus, typically in the fallopian tube. This kind of pregnancy can make the fallopian tube burst and cause life-threatening internal bleeding.

  • Cancer: Some cancer treatments aren’t safe during pregnancy, so a woman may opt to perform an abortion so they can receive the recommended treatment. This depends on the cancer severity and treatment required.

This tale was initially posted February 24, 2023, 12:21 PM.

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