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Could Idaho accuse a Washington abortion clinic of murder?

Nina Shapiro, The Seattle Times on

Published in News & Features

Any connection to an anti-abortion state — say a phone call between a resident and an out-of-state abortion clinic — could spark a jurisdictional battle, Cohen said.

Another connection could be the "point of sale" for abortion pills, which Bopp of the National Right to Life Committee said would be the location of the person who buys the pills.

His model legislation proposes that aiding or abetting an illegal abortion should include giving instructions about how to get one, providing referrals to providers or running a website that encourages the procedure.

Abortion rights supporters say they don't think many of these legal strategies will ultimately be successful. But some worry about unintended consequences of resisting other states' laws.

"It's a two-way street," said Kim Clark, a senior attorney at Legal Voice, an advocacy nonprofit. Washington may want other states to recognize its laws in other areas, such as around LGBTQ+ marriages and adoptions, she said.

"We're all furiously trying to think through the policy solutions," she said.

She and others are analyzing laws recently passed in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York that attempt to fend off legal action from anti-abortion states, including by preventing residents from having to cooperate with subpoenas and extraditions, and allowing them to countersue.


"You're going to see multiple proposals in the next legislative session, and I suspect some of those bills will pass," Ferguson said.

The regional Planned Parenthood affiliate based in Seattle operates in Idaho, as well as the anti-abortion states of Indiana and Kentucky, so it arguably has reason to be especially worried about lawsuits and prosecutions. But spokesperson Katie Rodihan said the nonprofit plans to help Idaho residents get Washington abortions in a variety of ways if Roe is overturned.

"We can refer them directly and schedule appointments in Washington," Rodihan said. That's easy to do, as the same team makes appointments for Washington and Idaho.

"Then we can connect them with abortion funds and other organizations that will give them the financial resources they may need to travel out of state and get that care," Rodihan said, adding that patients will also be able to get follow-up care back in Idaho.

Planned Parenthood's lawyers don't think Washington providers or their organization as a whole face a legal risk. Idaho's law allowing lawsuits is not as broad as Texas' and targets only providers, rather than anyone who helps someone get an abortion, Rodihan said. And Planned Parenthood does not believe Idaho's law has any authority over out-of-state providers.

But clearly, the Supreme Court decision, if anything like the leaked draft decision that would eviscerate abortion protections, will usher in a new legal landscape.

(c)2022 The Seattle Times Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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