Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant is proposing that the council deem Seattle a “sanctuary city” for people seeking abortions, in light of Friday’s reversal of federal abortion protections.

After the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade court decision establishing abortion as a right federally was overturned Friday by the conservative-majority U.S. Supreme Court, Sawant decried the decision.

What the Supreme Court abortion decision means for Washington

“Today we face the single biggest attack on women, queer and pregnant people, and reproductive rights in most of our lifetimes, and this right-wing Supreme Court has also given every indication that they plan to carry out draconian attacks on LGBTQ rights,” Sawant said. 

While abortion remains legal in Seattle and across Washington state — with state and local officials recommitting to protecting access locally — 13 other states, including nearby Idaho, have established “trigger laws” which automatically ban abortion following the reversal. And many other states are likely to restrict or limit abortion in the near future.

More about the Supreme Court and abortion

To protect those who will travel to Seattle for access to abortion, Sawant proposes the city dissuade Seattle Police from enforcing other state’s bans.


“We must make Seattle a sanctuary for pregnant people and their doctors and other care providers facing persecution for getting and performing abortions,” Sawant said.

People “threatened by draconian” anti-abortion laws, Sawant said, should come to Seattle without fear of prosecution.

Sawant’s idea, which is being drafted by council central staff, would emulate Seattle’s Initiative 75, which similarly asked SPD to avoid charges based on cannabis, which remains federally illegal.

The initiative made “the investigation, arrest and prosecution of marijuana offenses, where the marijuana was intended for adult personal use, the city’s lowest law enforcement priority.”

According to Sawant’s office, the sanctuary-city legislation has not been written, but will likely take a similar approach to enforcing warrants for out-of-state abortion charges. 

Similar legislation passed in Washington, D.C., and Oakland, California, since a draft of the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade was leaked in May. 


What the numbers say

No other councilmembers have come out in support of the preliminary legislation proposed by Sawant, but Councilmember Tammy Morales said Friday her office is working on legislation “aimed at protecting workers who seek abortions, regulating crisis pregnancy centers, and providing safe passage for people seeking abortion treatment and gender-affirming care at clinics in our city.”

Morales’ office did not provide a draft of the legislation Friday, but said they are working in conjunction with Councilmember Lisa Herbold.

SPD did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday afternoon.