Today, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, overruling Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey and clearing the way for 26 states to ban abortion.
What does the Dobbs decision mean for the Pacific Northwest?
Idaho is among the 26 states that are poised to ban abortion. It has an abortion ban on the books that will take effect in thirty days. After that, many who need abortion care will have to travel out of state to access it, which for some will not be possible. Those who stand to suffer the most are pregnant people with very few resources, young people, and those from marginalized communities. Given the high rates of maternal mortality and morbidity among communities of color in particular, being forced to carry a pregnancy to term could mean the difference between life and death. Being forced to carry a pregnancy to term also dramatically increases the risk of harm (including homicide) to survivors of intimate partner violence. For those who stand at the intersection of multiple forms of oppression like this, the consequences will be even more dire.
Fortunately, the right to abortion is protected by law in Washington (and Oregon, Alaska, and Montana – at least for now). That means that abortion will still be legal in these states. But that doesn’t mean these states won’t be impacted by the decision.
For example, the Guttmacher Institute estimates that the population of people who rely on providers in Washington for abortion care will increase by 385%. In fact, that may be a low estimate given new findings just released by the Guttmacher Institute that the rate of abortion in the United States is increasing for the first time in 30 years. Without additional funding and resources (to provide care to out-of-state residents and train additional providers) this will constrain the availability of care in Washington.
There are other threats that may be less apparent. Abortion rights advocates expect that antiabortion states will make every attempt to bring criminal cases against providers in other states who offer care to their residents. Beyond being harassing, these charges could affect providers’ malpractice insurance rates, subject them to disciplinary action by their respecting licensing boards, and ultimately impact their willingness to continue to offer care.
We also anticipate an increase in harassing and intimidating protest activity outside reproductive health clinics, another strategy the antiabortion movement increasingly is using to undermine access to care.
Meanwhile, crisis pregnancy centers (or CPCs), which are prolific throughout the country including the Pacific Northwest, serve as breeding grounds for radicalizing those protesters. CPCs also collect massive amounts of money and patient data that can be used to bring civil and criminal cases against pregnant people and their providers. It may surprise you to know that most crisis pregnancy centers are not subject to HIPAA or any other restrictions on how they use the personal health information they collect. That’s because they’re not real healthcare facilities. In fact, according to an article published today by Reveal, many crisis pregnancy centers are sharing the information they collect with Facebook, creating a “digital trail” that could be used as evidence against people seeking abortions and their providers in states that ban the procedure.
Suffice it to say that Washington and other safe haven states have a lot of work to do to expand funding for care; protect providers against claims under other states’ backward laws; and protect patients and providers alike from harassment and intimidation by anti-abortion activists.
What Legal Voice and Our Allies Are Doing
Fortunately, advocates and providers in Washington, Oregon and throughout the Pacific Northwest stand ready to meet this challenge and will not stop until all people enjoy true reproductive justice.
In response to the threats facing pregnant people, those who help them, and their providers, Legal Voice along with many other legal advocacy and grassroots organizations across the Pacific Northwest have formed a regional coalition to share information; make policy recommendations to the State of Washington to protect and expand access to reproductive rights, health and justice; and to change the public discourse about abortion. We are part of similar coalitions in Idaho and Oregon, as well.
In addition, we continue to advance our litigation work, most of which will not be impacted by the decision of the Supreme Court, and to build upon existing rights by developing new legal theories.
Finally, we are developing guidance materials for pregnant people, for those who provide assistance to pregnant people, and for providers to help them navigate the new legal challenges they will face in this new post-Roe era.
What You Can Do
For those who are concerned about the future of reproductive freedom, the time to act is now.
- Support your local abortion funds;
- Northwest Abortion Access Fund
- National Network of Abortion Access Funds
- Yellow Hammer Fund (Deep South)
- Lilith Fund (Texas)
- Midwest Access Fund
- Support QTBIPOC-led organizations, which will be providing essential support to their communities as they navigate this new post-Roe era;
- Talk to your friends about abortion and explain why it is essential to the health of people who can become pregnant and to their ability to participate equally in society;
- Take to the streets to protest; and
- Spread the word that abortion is still legal in Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Montana, regardless of what the the United States Supreme Court has to say.
- Contact your Federal and State Representatives and let them know how important abortion access is to you.