Inslee: Abortion must be included in hospitals’ emergency care if it would save a woman’s life

SEATTLE — Gov. Jay Inslee made it clear Tuesday morning that Washington hospitals must provide all forms of emergency care to save a woman’s life, including abortion.

The governor says that he is trying to ensure that hospitals comply with state policies, especially as more women travel from out of state in search of abortion care. Anyone who goes to a hospital in Washington, especially if their life is in danger, should expect lifesaving care.

Inslee said that his action was directly related to the U.S. Supreme Court and a ruling that could curtail abortion services even further.

“The court could rule now any day that the federal emergency healthcare protections effectively do not protect a woman’s right to emergency abortion services, when there are emergencies that threaten a woman’s right of health,” he said.

Inslee felt that waiting to make his directive was not an option, so he took action ahead of a potential ruling on an abortion case: Moyle, et al. v. United States.

The case has the potential to impact a federal law called the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA). It requires hospitals to deal with patients in emergency situations that could kill them. In some cases, emergency abortions are medically necessary for critical complications related to labor or pregnancy.

CBS News has reported on stories of women in some states being denied abortion care -- and having to travel far to get that care -- sometimes in emergency situations that could kill them.

Inslee says the number of women visiting Washington for abortion services from out of state has jumped 50%.

“Here in Washington, we’re going to continue to protect a woman’s right to health,” the governor said.

Sarah Prager, a professor of medicine at the University of Washington with a focus on obstetrics and gynecology, also spoke alongside the governor at the news conference, and denounced not being able to provide emergency care to women.

“How close to death must somebody be before a doctor is able to step in and provide care. The fact that laws now exist limiting a doctor’s ability to save a life is simply mind-boggling to me,” he said.

Inslee says codifying critical care standards in Washington is just one front in the debate around abortion. In a recent appearance on CBS Face the Nation, Senator JD Vance of Ohio said the issues around abortion legislation should be decided locally.

“The gross majority of policy is going to be set by the states. I am pro-life. I want to save as many babies as possible. I think it’s reasonable to say late-term abortions should not happen,” Vance said.

Contraceptive pills have grabbed headlines as debates at the federal and state levels play out while lawmakers consider how much regulation should be placed on the pills.

Inslee and others say there’s no debate on lifesaving care in the Evergreen State.

“It’s not good to have a rule on paper, you need to actually have access,” Inslee said.

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