It’s like a scene out of a movie. Activists and volunteers ferry a group across the border, organizing transportation and offering them shelter, while the travelers — some coming from 1,000 miles away and risking legal peril back home — await to get medical attention.

This is not some far off dystopian future. This could be America if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade this summer, making safe, legal abortion no longer a constitutional right across the nation.

Washington, where access to abortion is enshrined in state law, must be ready to help.

The state is already preparing for an influx of people from neighboring Idaho, after lawmakers there approved a bill that bans abortion after six weeks — before most people even know they’re pregnant — and allows family members to sue providers who violate the law.

Already, more than 40% of abortion appointments at Planned Parenthood’s Spokane Valley clinic are for Idaho patients, officials said. The expected increase in demand will not only tax Planned Parenthood’s ability to provide timely abortions for all but may also impact other critical health services it offers.

The Idaho bill is the first successful ban modeled after a Texas law that allows private citizens, and not the government, to enforce the prohibition. This distinction has so far let Texas skirt current federal protections by allowing the U.S. Supreme Court to claim it cannot intervene.


This coy farce is an end run around the Constitution that the court should find intolerable. Instead, its tacit endorsement is in keeping with the conservative majority’s known hostility toward Roe v. Wade. A challenge to a Mississippi abortion ban, with a decision expected in July, is expected to kill or gut what has been the law of the land for almost five decades, advocates said.

If the court does away with the federal right to abortion, more than 20 states are certain or likely to ban the procedure. This would result in a 385% increase in women whose nearest abortion provider would be in Washington, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-choice research group. Even limiting abortion to 15 weeks — reduced from the current viability standard of around 24 weeks — would lead to a 102% increase.

In the face of these challenges, the Legislature sensibly approved House Bill 1851, reaffirming the state’s commitment to a person’s right to choose. It also updated statutes to reflect opinions by attorneys general Christine Gregoire and Bob Ferguson that allowed qualified advanced practice clinicians to perform abortions. Lawmakers must be ready to do more, including additional funding, to ensure that care for our neighbors does not interfere with care for Washingtonians.

Our state will have a daunting responsibility and groups such as Planned Parenthood and the Northwest Abortion Access Fund, which supports patients who cannot afford abortion care, will need all the help they can get.

It is not hyperbole to say the future of abortion rights in many parts of the country is bleak — a proposal in Missouri would even make it illegal for a resident to get an abortion elsewhere. In this dark time, Washington must stand as a beacon of hope and protect anyone who seeks to safely terminate their pregnancy.