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Governor Jay Inslee Signs Bill to Prohibit Texas-Style Abortion Lawsuits in Washington State

Governor Jay Inslee Signs Bill to Prohibit Texas-Style Abortion Lawsuits in Washington State

A Washington State measure to prohibit legal action against people seeking an abortion and those who aid them was signed into law Thursday by the state’s Democratic governor, Jay Inslee, in a move designed to fend off extreme restrictions enacted by conservative states such as Texas.

Gov. Inslee made the move just one day after neighboring Idaho’s Legislature sent a bill to Republican Governor Brad Little that is modeled off the Texas law. The measure bans abortion after six weeks of pregnancy and allows the father, grandparents, siblings, aunts, and uncles of a “preborn child” to each sue an abortion provider for a minimum of $20,000 in damages within four years of the abortion. If passed, Washington State clinics can expect an influx of patients from Idaho seeking care.

(Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Conservative legislatures in several other states have either passed or proposed new abortion restrictions in anticipation of possible changes to the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court. If the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade entirely, the decision on whether to keep abortion legal would fall to the states. The most notable example is the Texas law, which took effect last September, bans abortion after roughly six weeks of pregnancy and makes no exceptions in cases of rape or incest. The enforcement of the law is left up to private citizens, who can collect $10,000 or more if they bring a successful lawsuit against a provider or anyone who helps a patient obtain an abortion.

Washington’s measure takes effect in June and prohibits the state from taking any action against an individual seeking to end their pregnancy or for assisting someone who is pregnant in obtaining an abortion. “We know this bill is necessary because this is a perilous time for the ability of people to have the freedom of choice that they have enjoyed for decades,” said Gov. Inslee.

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Other states are also getting more protections on the books. New Jersey recently became the 15th state to protect the right to abortion in state law, according to the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion-rights think tank. A measure in Colorado has passed the House there and awaits action in the Senate.

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