PORT ANGELES — The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Friday that overturned Roe v. Wade will not change women’s access to legal abortion in Clallam and Jefferson counties because Washington is one of 16 states and the District of Columbia that have laws guaranteeing a right to abortion.
It is one of four states — along with California, New York and Oregon — that have protected those rights by codifying them into state law.
“As long as the federal government can’t restrict states’ ability to provide abortion, Washington will continue to honor access to those services,” said Dr. Lissa Lubinksi, M.D., a family doctor in private practice in Port Angeles.
Patty Haas, who is with the Port Angeles chapter of Human Life of Washington, said that the Supreme Court decision will have no effect locally, but that the work of anti-abortion groups will continue.
“We are absolutely happy about this, but the state Legislature is pro-abortion, unfortunately,” Haas said. “There will always be efforts by Human Life to get Washington to change, especially late-term abortions.”
Rallies were quickly organized in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision. Indivisible Port Townsend called for a gathering at 5 p.m. Friday and SisterLand Farms placed on its Facebook page a call for supporters of women’s reproductive rights to come together at 2 p.m. today at the Clallam County Courthouse, 223 E. Fourth St., Port Angeles.
Washington became the first state to legalize abortion in 1970 when voters approved Referendum 20, and in 1991 they approved Initiative 120, the Reproductive Privacy Act, which expanded access and protections to abortion in the state.
Washington law allows for, among other things, late-term abortions and requires private medical insurance and state Medicaid to cover abortion services, including medical abortion — via pills — and surgical abortion.
As public hospitals, Olympic Medical Center in Port Angeles and Jefferson Healthcare in Port Townsend must comply with the state Reproductive Privacy Act, which requires public hospital districts that provide maternity care services to women to also provide them with comparable pregnancy termination services.
Jefferson Healthcare began providing abortion services in 2016 after the Seattle office of the American Civil Liberties Union accused it of noncompliance with the Reproductive Privacy Act. It offers medical and surgical abortions, as well as emergency contraception.
“Today’s decision by SCOTUS does not affect our commitment to whole-person care which will continue to include all sexual and reproductive health,” said Mike Glenn, CEO of Jefferson Healthcare in a statement.
“Our medical providers support individuals through every step in their reproductive journey and will continue to make available all appropriate care options including birth control, pregnancy testing, abortion, prenatal care, and birth,” he added.
Digital marketing manager Ryan Hueter in an email that Olympic Medical Center’s practice complied with Washington’s Reproductive Privacy Act because it “provides referrals to partner organizations that provide the services.” It refers patients to Planned Parenthood in Port Angeles, he said, which offers medical abortion to patients, but not surgical abortion services.
Olympic Medical Center CEO Darryl Wolfe said in a written statement, “Olympic Medical Center supports women’s rights to access safe medical care in all aspects of their healthcare journey.”
Attempts to reach Forks Community Hospital on Friday were unsuccessful.
Lubinski said that women’s access to surgical abortions in Clallam County is limited primarily by geography because the closest provider is an hour away in Port Townsend.
“Most of my patients don’t even know that Jefferson Healthcare provides that service,” Lubinksi said. “I do think there’s room for improvement in access.”
According to the Washington State Department of Health, in 2020 Clallam County had a higher rate of abortions per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44 (13.42) than the state rate of 10.74 per 1,000 women. Jefferson County had a rate of 7.56 abortions per 1,000 women. In 2020, 136 abortions were performed in Clallam County and 26 abortions were performed in Jefferson County.
Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached at [email protected]