OLYMPIA — In fiery remarks by the state Capitol steps, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Saturday blasted the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade as “radical” and “un-American,” and announced the state would fight back through law enforcement, extra support for women seeking abortions and an effort to advance a state constitutional amendment protecting the right to an abortion.
The governor plans to instruct the Washington State Patrol not to cooperate with law enforcement officials from other states who may seek to prosecute violations of their states’ abortion laws as people travel to Washington seeking abortions. Inslee said he would support legislation to make that a statewide policy, binding other Washington law enforcement agencies to the same prohibition.
Inslee said he plans to work to boost health care resources, starting with $1 million, to deal with an expected increase in people coming to the state for abortion care.
Inslee called out plans by former Vice President Mike Pence, who is said to be mulling a run for president, and other Republicans for restrictions that would go beyond the Supreme Court ruling that voids abortion as a constitutional right and leaves the rules up to the states. Such new federal restrictions would threaten Washington, where abortion is legal, leading Inslee to declare, “We intend to stop them.”
He lamented the end of an era of politics when a number of Republicans, too, were “pro-choice.”
He also took worried note of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurring opinion in Friday’s landmark ruling that same-sex marriage also should be reconsidered.
The three-term governor spoke on a sun-drenched, blue-sky day, as several hundred spectators — some holding signs that said “Bans off Our Bodies” and “Abortion is Health Care” — cheered his remarks.
“We will make Washington a sanctuary state for the right of choice,” Inslee said.
He was joined by several legislators, including Rep. Jessica Bateman, D-Olympia, who talked about her own experience with abortion.
“That is a health care decision that I made privately with my health care provider. And I am fortunate that I was able to have a safe and legal abortion in Washington state,” Bateman told the crowd. “That is not something that I’ve shared publicly. And I would have preferred to have kept that private. But at this dire time in our nation’s history, I will not remain silent as this fundamental right is stripped from millions of my fellow Americans.”
Though Inslee and others who spoke Saturday sketched the abortion issue in starkly partisan terms, a small group of supporters of the Supreme Court decision assembled on the Capitol steps included purple-haired Seattle resident Kristin Monahan, who held up a sign that said “Leftist, Feminist, Atheist, Vegan Pro-Life.”
Monahan, 30, said she has been against abortion since she was 14, and she criticized Inslee for how he has framed the politics of abortion.
Monahan said she has anti-abortion pro-life feminist friends in Seattle and other parts of the state.
“I do think that eventually people like me … our voices more will be out there … and people will start to realize you can be left-wing and feminist and secular and pro-life.”
Monahan gathered with anti-abortion activists from Western Washington and the Yakima Valley.
Inslee said that since Friday’s ruling he had yet to hear any Republican legislators in Washington speak out in support of abortion rights. And he said keeping Democrats in control of the Legislature and the governor’s mansion was key to keeping the state a stronghold of abortion rights.
State Sen. Jim McCune, R-Graham, issued a statement Friday lauding the court ruling as “giving the people the power to regulate abortion through their elected legislators.” Roe represented “overstepping,” McCune wrote.
He said “common-sense reforms — like protecting unborn babies with Down syndrome” should be adopted in Olympia, but added that Friday’s decision “will not actually change that much here in Washington.”
Inslee said a constitutional amendment would first have to move through the Legislature before being sent to voters. He said he wouldn’t count on a single Republican vote in favor of such an amendment.
Inslee said he “can’t guarantee that it will pass [the Legislature], but if we elect enough people who believe in the right of choice, it will, and that’s what we’re calling for. “
After Inslee’s call for law enforcement to shun cooperation with states pursuing criminal investigations into abortions, Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell on Saturday said on Twitter that the Seattle Police Department would not “enact and engage in punitive and reactionary efforts” to enforce what he called a “regressive assault on their constituents’ bodies.”
As an increased number of out-of-state residents are expected to come to Washington for abortions; a long-term effort to expand state support for abortion services also will be launched.
Inslee said the Legislature during the last session anticipated the situation and allocated more than $7.5 million that can be used for hiring and staff.
“I’m confident there’ll be more needs,” Inslee said. “Legislators will need to get going to appropriate.”
Inslee on Friday said Washington will join with Democratic governors from California and Oregon to form a “Multi-state Commitment” to defend reproductive health care, including abortion and contraceptives.
All three states are expected to see a surge of patients seeking abortions from other states, such as Idaho, where anti-abortion laws will soon take effect. The three-governor initiative is intended to expand access and protections for patients, as well as providers.
“Washington state remains steadfast in our commitment to protecting the ability and right of every patient who comes to our state in need of abortion care, and we will fight like hell to restore that right to patients all across the county,” Inslee said in a Friday statement.
Inslee in 2018 signed the Reproductive Parity Act that the Legislature passed to require that all health plans include maternity care services to cover abortion and contraception. In 2021, he signed a law that allows doctors who practice in Catholic-run hospitals to bypass ethical-religious directors and provide medically necessary abortion when a woman’s life is endangered, according to a statement from the governor’s office.