SEATTLE — Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced today that health care providers, seekers, and helpers in Washington have a new avenue to obtain pro bono legal assistance to facilitate abortion access.
Help can be found at a new legal services website managed by the Lawyering Project — abortiondefensenetwork.org.
Washingtonians seeking help through the website will be connected to attorneys in a nationwide pro bono network, including several Washington law firms recruited by the Attorney General’s Office, to provide free legal guidance and resources.
Advocacy organizations have also partnered with the law firms and the Attorney General’s Office to connect Washingtonians to these important legal services. The American Civil Liberties Union and Legal Voice provided training to Washington attorneys.
“Radical laws in other states are creating chaos for providers, out-of-state patients and individuals assisting their friends and family to access health care,” Ferguson said. “The changing legal landscape is causing providers and others to question whether they face legal jeopardy by helping someone come to Washington for legal abortion care. This resource will help them navigate these important issues and protect their freedoms.”
“Know Your Rights”
Ferguson also produced a “know your rights” brochure and a specific form for Washingtonians to file complaints about violations to their reproductive rights. The brochure, available on the Attorney General’s website, is a guide to Washington state law’s protections for abortion and contraception access. The two-page document covers Washington’s guaranteed right to choose abortion, access for pregnant people from other states, insurance coverage for abortion care, emergency contraception access and more.
Anyone with complaints or concerns about violations of reproductive rights under state law is encouraged to file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office.
Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Center, overturning Roe v. Wade, the nearly five-decade-old opinion that recognized abortion as a constitutional right, some states continue to protect abortion rights. Others have enacted restrictive and punitive anti-abortion laws, raising unprecedented legal questions for health care providers and people seeking reproductive health care. Amid this shifting legal landscape, confusion, uncertainty and misinformation threaten to chill access to abortion care — even in states like Washington, where the right to choose abortion and provide health care is protected.
The website, managed by the Lawyering Project, connects individuals with legal support in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision. Backed by a nationwide network of trained attorneys, it is designed to help providers and patients around the country understand their legal rights. Ferguson convened law firms and advocacy organizations in Washington to ensure that attorneys are available to advise anyone who is seeking legal guidance about providing or receiving abortion care in Washington state.
According to a friend of the court brief Ferguson filed in August, clinics in Eastern Washington have seen a “massive influx” of patients from Idaho, which has severely restricted abortion access after the Dobbs decision.
Planned Parenthood told Crosscut that 62% of patients at its Pullman clinic were from Idaho in June. The following month, that number jumped to 78% — nearly double the rate from the previous year. The Pullman clinic is just 10 miles from the Idaho border. After it closed its Boise, Idaho, clinic, Planned Parenthood also reported seeing Idaho patients at its Kennewick and Walla Walla clinics, more than four hours away from Boise.
Washington Department of Health data show that between May of 2020 and the end of October of 2022, there were just short of 1,400 emergency department visits in Washington state where abortion was used to treat an emergency medical condition, including life-threatening pregnancy complications. More than a third of those visits — 508 — happened in the last year.
For more information about accessing abortion in Washington state, visit the state Department of Health’s abortion information page.
First Assistant Attorney General Kristin Beneski coordinated the AGO’s outreach to participating firms and organizations.
Washington’s Attorney General serves the people and the state of Washington. As the state’s largest law firm, the Attorney General’s Office provides legal representation to every state agency, board, and commission in Washington. Additionally, the Office serves the people directly by enforcing consumer protection, civil rights, and environmental protection laws. The Office also prosecutes elder abuse, Medicaid fraud, and handles sexually violent predator cases in 38 of Washington’s 39 counties. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Brionna Aho, Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; Brionna.firstname.lastname@example.org
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