The King County Sheriff’s Office and other executive branch departments will not cooperate with out-of-state prosecutions of abortion providers or patients, County Executive Dow Constantine said in an executive order signed Tuesday.
The order follows a similar one from Gov. Jay Inslee, who last week signed a directive prohibiting the Washington State Patrol from cooperating with out-of-state abortion investigations or prosecutions.
Inslee, in signing his directive, stressed that he did not have jurisdiction over local law enforcement agencies. Now the state’s largest county has barred its law enforcement from aiding other states’ abortion investigations.
The order cites a “moral and policy imperative not to assist states” who might seek to prosecute and other outside organizations and individuals seeking to infringe the rights of persons who obtain health care in King County.”
Constantine said the order sends “a message that we will not allow these backward, dangerous, and spiteful policies to further degrade people’s privacy and liberty.”
The order bars sheriff’s deputies and staff from making arrests, serving warrants and subpoenas or assisting in extradition on any person who has sought or provided reproductive health care that is legal in Washington.
It bars the county jail system from accepting bookings for abortion-related out-of-state prosecutions and it bars the county health department from providing information related to prosecutions or sanctions related to abortion.
“Access to reproductive health care is a right in King County and Washington State and the King County Sheriff’s Office will work to uphold access to that right in line with our laws and this new order,” King County Sheriff Patti Cole-Tindall said.
Constantine’s executive order comes as the Metropolitan King County Council approved $500,000 in emergency funding for the Northwest Abortion Access Fund to provide abortion care, travel and lodging expenses for people traveling to King County from other states seeking abortions.
Abortion providers in Washington have been preparing for, and already seeing, an influx of patients from other states that have banned or are soon to ban abortion, following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade.
In neighboring Idaho, a law slated to go into effect this month would ban abortions except in cases of rape, incest or to protect the life of the mother. Health-care providers would face felony charges punishable by up to five years in prison for violations.
That could send more than 1,600 Idaho women annually to clinics in Washington and Oregon.
“Nothing that a local government can do is going to solve this problem, but we are going to help people, probably a lot of people, today,” County Council Chair Claudia Balducci said.
The County Council voted 8-1 to approve the emergency abortion funding, with the lone no vote coming from Councilmember Reagan Dunn. Dunn, a Republican who is running for Congress, has long been supportive of abortion rights, but earlier this year voted against legislation affirming the county’s support of abortion rights and Roe v. Wade.
“I do believe that its appropriate that these types of nonprofits can and should exist,” Dunn said of the Northwest Abortion Access Fund. “I don’t believe King County taxpayers should be on the hook for paying for these services, particularly for non-residents.”