Seattle police will not cooperate in arrests or investigations related to abortion bans in other states, after City Council members voted to make the city a sanctuary for providers and patients.
The bill, which Councilmember Kshama Sawant introduced at a news conference the day the U.S. Supreme Court repealed decades-old constitutional protections over abortion, deems Seattle a “sanctuary city” for those who seek or provide abortion.
While abortion has been and remains legal across Washington state, the new legislation prohibits Seattle police from arresting people on warrants issued in other jurisdictions or aiding in investigations related to seeking or performing abortions, following the model of Seattle’s Initiative 75, which similarly stopped the Seattle Police Department from pursuing charges based on cannabis, which remains federally illegal.
“Laws violating basic bodily autonomy and criminalizing reproductive health care are fundamentally unjust and we should not allow Seattle to be complicit,” Sawant said on Tuesday, touting the support of 5,500 community members who signed a petition in support of the legislation.
“Let anyone frightened by draconian anti-abortion laws come to Seattle without fear of prosecution,” she added.
The bill was approved by all six present members of the council and after Sawant proposed an amendment to remove the phrase “provided by a licensed health care provider operating within the scope of their practice,” broadening protections to include those who seek unlicensed care.
“The reality is the states that have passed draconian anti-abortion laws also make it impossible to be licensed to provide reproductive health care. And as a result, people are forced to find other illegal ways to do the same thing,” Sawant said.
While Mayor Bruce Harrell said in June that Seattle police would not pursue related arrests “that are inconsistent with Washington laws and most important our values,” Sawant’s is the first concrete protection established in the city since the court decision.
The council will also soon consider a pair of bills introduced last week by Councilmembers Lisa Herbold and Tammy Morales, designed to protect those seeking abortion care from discrimination and penalize people who interfere with health care, including abortions and gender-affirming care.
“I’m really looking forward to working to find ways to expand abortion access and protect what can only be called medical refugees, people who are coming here and cannot receive basic health care in their home states,” Herbold said Tuesday.
Herbold and Morales’ bills were both approved in committee on Friday and are set to be voted on by the full council on Aug. 9.
Sawant said she hopes Seattle is setting the example of how to protect those denied reproductive health care in other states, noting that council members in Minneapolis and Chicago had reached out, indicating their intent to pass similar policies.
“If this legislation passes in Seattle alone, it will have a vital impact on protecting many women and LGBTQ people. However, if bringing it here can help it spread to other cities and states, the impact could be truly profound,” Sawant said before the vote.
“If half the states in the nation refused to extradite people under investigation for breaking anti-abortion laws in the other half of states, those laws would become extremely difficult to enforce.”
Last month, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee joined a three-state pact to refuse nonfugitive extradition for individuals facing criminal prosecution for receiving reproductive health care services and expand access to abortion care.