OLYMPIA, Washington — Abortion rights proposals took center stage in Olympia, Washington, this week as state lawmakers heard hours of public comment on seven proposals that would strengthen access to abortion.
The emphasis on Tuesday’s four legislative committees hearing testimonies on abortion legislation was intended to demonstrate majority Democrat support for abortion rights after the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the Seattle Times reported.
The June decision turned on its head nearly 50 years of national abortion protections and sparked action in states across the country.
Lawmakers in Washington have introduced legislation that would protect Washington-based abortion providers from retaliation from other states and reduce costs for patients, among other things.
“I think making sure that these policy priorities are heard not only in both chambers, but early enough in the session that we can get everything across the finish line is a real statement of our investment,” Sen. Emily Randall, D- Bremerton said.
Abortion advocates and opponents testified in person and remotely, many sharing personal stories of pregnancy and abortion.
Abortion has been legal in Washington state since a statewide referendum in 1970. Washington voters approved Initiative 120 in 1991, which Roe codified into state law.
Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee has asked lawmakers in this session to support an amendment to the state constitution to protect abortion rights, and he testified Tuesday in favor of the amendment.
“What we considered solid in the American constellation of democratic values has proven very fragile,” Inslee told lawmakers. “And we can’t be fooled into thinking that that can’t be the case in Washington state.”
The amendment faces a challenge in that it requires some Republican support to reach a two-thirds threshold in each legislative chamber. If passed, the amendment would be presented to voters in Washington in November.
Republican Sen. Ann Rivers of La Center questioned Inslee about the need for a constitutional change and said state law was settled.
“And look at the composition of the legislature and the composition of our Supreme Court. … Political theater aside, I don’t see a world where Washington State is changing course on this issue,” she said.
“I’m trying to say this respectfully: what world are you living in?” Inslee replied. “There’s a party in our state that wakes up every morning and tries to take that right away from women. And in multiple states, unfortunately, they have effectively done so in multiple states.”
Six more abortion laws require a simple majority to pass and take an easier path. That includes a bill that would prevent companies from selling data collected from people using apps that track periods and record other health data.