Inslee prohibits Washington State Patrol from aiding abortion investigations

  • By Rachel La Corte The Associated Press
  • Wednesday, July 6, 2022 1:30am
  • NewsRegional News

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee has issued a directive instructing the Washington State Patrol to not cooperate with out-of-state abortion investigations, a preemptive move in case states where abortion is banned or significantly restricted seek to investigate whether their residents have traveled to the state.

The order, which was finalized Thursday, was first announced by Inslee at a news conference outside the Capitol last weekend, one day after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

“Washington is and will remain a sanctuary for any person seeking abortion care and services in our state, but we must act to protect our rights and our values,” Inslee wrote in his directive. “To that end, it is critical that our law enforcement agencies not cooperate in any manner with any out-of-state investigation, prosecution, or other legal action based on another state’s law that is inconsistent with Washington’s protections of the right to choose abortion and provide abortion-related care.”

Under the directive, the State Patrol must not cooperate with most subpoenas, search warrants or court orders from states with laws that ban or significantly restrict abortion access. Any request received by the patrol must be reviewed and processed in conjunction with the attorney general’s office and the governor’s attorney.

The governor doesn’t have jurisdiction over local law enforcement agencies, but under a law passed this year, state and local law enforcement are prohibited from being able to “penalize, prosecute, or otherwise take adverse action” against an individual seeking to end their pregnancy or against anyone assisting someone who is pregnant in obtaining an abortion.

The neighboring state of Idaho has enacted a near-total abortion ban that automatically takes effect 30 days after the court’s decision.

Planned Parenthood is suing over the law and asking for an expedited schedule so the Idaho Supreme Court can hear arguments before it goes into effect, but health care providers expect that Idaho residents seeking abortion services may travel to Washington state for the procedure.

Abortion has been legal in Washington state since a 1970 statewide ballot referendum. Another ballot measure approved by voters in 1991 affirmed a woman’s right to choose physician-performed abortion prior to fetal viability and further expanded and protected access to abortion in the state if Roe v. Wade was overturned.

As part of the enforcement prohibitions measure Inslee signed earlier this year, the number of providers who can provide abortions increased, after the Legislature granted specific statutory authorization for physician assistants, advanced registered nurse practitioners and other providers acting within their scope of practice.

Inslee’s office said he’s talking with fellow Democrats in the Legislature about additional policies to to protect patient rights and data, though no specific bills have been proposed as of yet.

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