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Seattle City Council OKs outlawing abortion discrimination

Protesters sit in the street near Pike Place Market, a tourist destination, in Seattle, Friday, June 24, 2022, after the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)
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Protesters sit in the street near Pike Place Market, a tourist destination, in Seattle, Friday, June 24, 2022, after the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)

SEATTLE (AP) — It will soon be illegal in Seattle to discriminate against people for seeking or receiving an abortion, part of the city’s efforts to preserve reproductive rights locally.

The Seattle City Council on Tuesday passed a measure making it illegal to discriminate against someone based on their actual or perceived pregnancy outcome, The Seattle Times reported. The council also added a statewide misdemeanor charge for interfering with health care to the city’s code, hoping to minimize interference and harassment against those seeking care in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court undoing decades of constitutional abortion protections in June.

“For the first time in our country’s history, our courts have reversed fundamental rights,” Councilmember Tammy Morales, who sponsored both bills, said Tuesday. “Every level of government has a vital role to play to ensure that bodily autonomy and self determination are able to exist for our community members.”

The discrimination bill allows the city’s Office of Civil Rights to investigate alleged discrimination based on pregnancy outcomes as it would discrimination based on race, religion, sex, sexuality or other protected classes, while the interference bill allows the city to prosecute interference with any health care — including abortions and gender-affirming care which are frequently protested — as a misdemeanor.

Both passed council 8-0 and next head to Mayor Bruce Harrell, who is expected to sign them.

The council also recently deemed Seattle a “sanctuary” for those seeking abortion, prohibiting Seattle police from cooperating with arrests or investigations related to abortion bans in other jurisdictions.

Councilmember and bill co-sponsor Lisa Herbold said she plans to focus on further broadening and strengthening protections and access to reproductive care in Seattle, as the city anticipates “medical refugees” will come from states with bans.

Herbold said her staff was researching ways to require health care facilities to be transparent about what care they will or will not provide and any restrictions on providing abortions, noting that about 50% of hospital beds are in religiously affiliated hospitals, which often limit abortions to — somewhat subjective — emergency situations.

“We’re at the beginning of this crisis ... thanks to the extraordinary work of advocates and providers, we can make educated guesses about the impact and we can move to meet the challenges,” Herbold said.

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