House Bill 1851 has passed both houses and will be on Governor Inslee’s desk soon
OLYMPIA — Today, health care advocates across Washington celebrated the state Senate passing House Bill 1851, the Affirm Washington Abortion Access Act. HB 1851, which passed the Senate by a 28-21 vote, would confirm that advanced practice clinicians like nurse practitioners and physician assistants can provide abortion care in Washington. The bill previously passed the House in February with an amendment that was later removed in the Senate, and it will head to Governor Jay Inslee’s desk after a concurrence vote. It has a long list of supporting organizations, including the ACLU of Washington, Cedar River Clinics, the American College of Nurse Midwives - Washington, Pro Choice Washington, the Washington State Nurses Association, Legal Voice, Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates, If/When/How: Lawyering for Reproductive Justice, and Kaiser Permanente.
Washington’s health care system is preparing for an influx of new abortion patients following the expected collapse of Roe v. Wade thanks to the politicized Supreme Court of the United States. Thousands of patients from states like Idaho, Montana could be forced to comes to Washington to receive abortion care. Idaho in particular is considering a bill to encourage in-laws to spy on their family members seeking abortion care, and file junk lawsuits against their family members’ medical providers. HB 1851 is an essential piece of legislation to counter such efforts from Idaho and would confirm Washington’s position as a welcoming state to anyone who needs abortion care.
“As our neighboring state Idaho is proving this week, certain states will not stop in their efforts to restrict abortion access. It is up to Washington to prepare to welcome any patients who need abortion care if new restrictions pass or if the Supreme Court strikes down Roe v. Wade,” said Courtney Normand, Washington State Director of Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates. “When HB 1851 is signed into law by Governor Inslee, it means Washington will keep doing our part in the national fight to protect access. As access to abortion is potentially removed for millions of patients, we will be here to take them in.”
Two Washington Attorney General opinions already allow certain non-physicians to provide abortion care to their patients, and as a result, many providers have been safely performing abortions in Washington for several years. Studies have consistently and reliably found that safety is not compromised by allowing qualified licensed providers — such as nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, and physician assistants – to perform abortion care, with no difference in the risk of complications for in-clinic abortion when performed by a qualified licensed provider compared to a doctor. If providers are confident they have statutory protections, even more will be comfortable offering abortions — helping ease the expected backlog that will result from an influx of out-of-state patients.
“At a time when Washington is facing the very real possibility of a massive influx of people coming from other states to access abortion care, the Legislature should clarify once and for all that the Reproductive Privacy Act — a law that was clearly intended to protect access to abortion care — does not preclude this entire class of qualified, skilled providers, upon whom the most marginalized communities heavily rely, from offering abortion care,” said Kim Clark, Senior Attorney at Legal Voice.
The version of HB 1851 that passed the Senate would also make Washington abortion laws gender neutral, ensuring that the state protects all Washingtonians’ right to abortion care. The reproductive rights movement has historically focused on women’s rights, leaving out transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming individuals who also have important reproductive health care needs. LGBTQ patients often face increased barriers to accessing the care they need, including reproductive health care. This bill is an important step towards fully recognizing the rights and needs of the gender diverse Washingtonians who access abortions.
“Abortion care has always been provided by a broad mix of clinicians, and those who have been trained, can provide safe and effective care. We anticipate a significant increase in abortions in Washington, and are already seeing prolonged wait times in some areas. With increasing restrictions to accessing abortion around the country, prioritizing access however we can is important in Washington, and includes expanding the types of clinicians providing abortion services,” said Dr. Sarah Prager, MD, MAS, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at University of Washington and member of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).
Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates, Serving AK, HI, ID, IN, KY, WA (PPAA) is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization educating residents and policymakers about reproductive health issues in Alaska, Hawai‘i, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky and Washington. PPAA lobbies and educates to advance Planned Parenthood's mission, and engages in limited electoral activities.