SEATTLE (AP) — As the nation awaits Supreme Court opinion on a blockbuster abortion case involving Roe v. Wade could fall, Planned Parenthood of Washington is bracing for a surge in out-of-state patients requesting abortions.
“We’re already seeing patients from Texas, from Oklahoma. I saw a patient from Alabama a few weeks ago,” said Dr. Erin Berry, ob-gyn and medical director of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands, Washington state KING TV.
Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest said it is working to identify which Washington locations could open for additional days if needed, and beefing up its patient navigation teams, who help patients with appointments and travel arrangements.
“There’s a lot of unknowns,” Berry said. “Furthermore, we ultimately don’t know how many people will come from where and what their needs will be.”
Twenty-six states are likely to have total or near total abortion bans if Roe v. Wade is lifted. Idaho’s Trigger Act prohibits all abortions except for rape, incest, and when the mother’s life is in danger.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that advocates for abortion rights, 230,000 patients could travel across Idaho’s state lines to seek an abortion.
Berry said it’s expensive for patients to travel across the country to access medical care and fears being funded in the long run.
The forthcoming decision not only unsettles patients. The Washington Medical Commission, which regulates the licensing of Washington physicians, said if Roe v. Wade’s repeal could raise practical concerns for registration holders in Washington.
“If the Supreme Court rules as it has been suggested, it will create a lot of confusion in the medical and legal landscape,” said Washington Medical Commission Deputy Executive Director and Legislative Director Micah Matthews. “The pandemic has greatly expanded the reach (of the medical field) through telemedicine, or obtaining licenses through contracts, and encroaching into other states to help healthcare systems in need.”
The Washington Medical Commission, along with the Board of Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery, the Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission, and the Pharmacy Quality Assurance Commission, have published a co-authored FAQ to address concerns.
“We just want to make it clear that when it comes to considering (the Commission) any application or complaint that we receive, Washington law applies,” Matthews said.
Regardless of the verdict, abortion remains legal in Washington.
In 2022, access to abortion was expanded in Washington state, Matthews pointed out. Effective June 9, 2022, the state’s legal language changed from “woman” to “pregnant”.
Seattle City Council also passed a resolution last month to allocate funds from the 2022 Supplementary Budget to expand access to reproductive health care. An exact dollar amount has not yet been given, but is expected to be discussed in committee in July.
When asked if there were plans for more federal funding to accommodate an influx of patients, a spokesman for Gov. Jay Inslee’s office said, “We are talking to lawmakers and providers about a number of additional policies and resources that would ensure.” that we can provide abortion services to any person seeking them in Washington. The governor is fully committed to ensuring that we protect patients’ abortion rights and expand access.”
Access, Berry believes, is a fundamental right.
“It feels like a breach of a doctor’s oath to deny people that care,” Berry said. “And to know that’s going to happen on a large scale is really intense and really sad.”