Last weekend, people all over the country rose up to defend reproductive rights in light of the Supreme Court ruling that was leaked just over two weeks ago. The leaked majority opinion draft would overturn Roe v. Wade and allow individual states to make decisions on whether to ban abortions and how they would ban abortions. That means that states would be allowed to ban abortions outright, which would potentially be an immediate change in some states. At the same time, the leaked draft opinion has led to efforts by GOP lawmakers in several states to make plans to restrict access to contraceptives. For example, Idaho’s House of Representatives is planning on having hearings on legislation that would ban contraceptives such as the Plan B pill and abortion pills in general due to there being a “safety concern.” As a result, many people in Washington State and across the nation were worried about the possible ways that the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court could affect them.
Historically, Washington State has been a safe haven for those seeking abortions because of the fact that it has not placed unnecessary restrictions on abortions. Washington State has codified the right to have an abortion and the right for anyone to access birth control in state law. Specifically, RCW 9.02.100 currently states that “Every individual has the fundamental right to choose or refuse birth control;” and that “Every woman has the fundamental right to choose or refuse to have an abortion.” The law was recently amended to contain gender-neutral language, which would mean that the term “woman” would be replaced with the term “pregnant individual.” The amended version of the law would go into effect in June, but the fundamental meaning of the law will not be changed.
The only thing that would restrict the rights to choose to have an abortion or to choose to go on birth control would be if a new law was passed by the State Legislature and signed by the Governor. In order to prevent that from happening, a majority of the members of the State House of Representatives and the State Senate would have to be pro-choice, along with the Governor. At the same time, if Washington State’s Constitution enshrined the right to choose to have an abortion and the right to choose to be on birth control in the State Constitution like several other states already have, the stance of a majority of the state legislature and the governor’s stance on reproductive rights would not matter. At the end of the day, the reproductive rights of those living in Washington State are safer than most of the country, but there is still cause for concern.