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West Coast governors promise to defend abortion rights

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, in her office at the state capitol, Feb. 3, 2022, following her final state of the state address. Brown announced on June 24 that Oregon would join with California and Washington in protecting the right to abortion on the West Coast.
Kristyna Wentz-Graff
/
OPB
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, in her office at the state capitol, Feb. 3, 2022, following her final state of the state address. Brown announced on June 24 that Oregon would join with California and Washington in protecting the right to abortion on the West Coast.

In a joint statement issued Friday, the Democratic governors of Oregon, California and Washington announced a coordinated effort to strengthen legal protections for abortion providers and patients who travel to the West Coast from states where the practice is banned.

“Abortion is health care, and no matter who you are or where you come from, Oregon doesn’t turn away anyone seeking health care. Period,” Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said in a written statement.

“For all the Americans today feeling scared, angry, and disappointed — for everyone who needs an abortion and does not know where they can access safe reproductive health care –– please know you are not alone, and the fight is not over.”

The U.S. Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade on Friday, ending the constitutional right to abortion after nearly five decades. The ruling will likely lead to near-total bans on the procedure in half the country.

In Washington and California, abortion is legal up to fetal viability. In Oregon, there isn’t a specific limit on when abortion can take place. The three West Coast states have solid majorities of Democrats in their legislatures and have taken action to expand access to abortion and reproductive health care in recent years.

In 2017, Brown signed a law codifying reproductive health services and the right to an abortion into state law. This year, the Oregon Legislature approved $15 million to be spent on helping community-based organizations expand access to abortion across the state.

The governors said they would direct their local law enforcement agencies not to cooperate with out-of-state investigations or arrests related to people who have traveled to the West Coast to legally obtain abortions there.

“We will resist intrusion by out of state prosecutors, law enforcement or vigilantes trying to investigate patients receiving services in our state,” Brown said.

The governors also said they will take steps to protect patients seeking abortions against the misuse of their medical records. And they said the three states will work on legislation protecting medical professionals who legally perform abortions in Oregon, Washington and California against professional censure by licensing boards or adverse actions by their liability insurance providers.
Although the compact offers protections today for people whose rights are being abridged in other states, there are still many uncertainties. Alison Gash, an associate professor of political science at University of Oregon, said it would become very complicated if there were a national ban on abortion.

”That is the big question, so would a state with constitutional protections around abortion overrule the power of a national legislative ban?” Gash said. “And that would be a matter probably for the courts to decide.”
This is a developing story and may be updated.
Copyright 2022 Oregon Public Broadcasting. To see more, visit Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Amelia Templeton, Lauren Dake
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