AG’s opinion will help guide state on abortion

August 29, 2013 

An important but not widely publicized opinion from the state attorney general’s offices was issued last week. In plain language, it affirmed a woman’s right to abortion in Washington as expressed in Initiative 120.

Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, asked Attorney General Bob Ferguson to consider whether a public hospital district violates Initiative 120, passed by voters in 1991, if it contracts only with health care providers that do not offer reproductive care services.

In response, the attorney general’s office found that if a public hospital district offers maternity care, they must also offer abortion services.

It’s an issue because Catholic health care systems have recently acquired formerly secular systems, reducing access to reproductive services. The issue is especially worrisome in rural areas where residents have limited options.

Thurston County residents are fortunate to have a choice between Providence St. Peter Hospital and the private Capital Medical Center, which is not affiliated with any religious organization. St. Peter is part of Providence Health & Services, a not-for-profit Catholic health care ministry and the largest health care provider in the state.

The attorney general’s opinion should help guide state Department of Health licensing policies to ensure the intent of I-120 is maintained.

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