As Idaho’s Republican-led Legislature passes bills to endanger the lives of more pregnant people and transgender youth by blocking access to health care, Washington’s Democratic-led Legislature is passing bills to provide a safe haven to doctors and patients. 

This week, the Legislature passed a shield law, House Bill 1469, alongside several bills all aimed at making Washington a safe place for people to seek, provide, and receive both abortion and gender-affirming care, regardless of the laws in other states.

Lawmakers expect Gov. Jay Inslee to sign the bill into law in the coming days. 

Honestly, he could hurry up a bit. On April 5, Idaho Gov. Brad Little signed into law a bill making “abortion trafficking” a criminal offense. That law makes it a felony for an adult to help a minor get abortion pills or leave the state for an abortion without their guardian’s consent.

But once Inslee signs Washington’s shield law, Little’s prosecutors will have a hard time proving that anything happened here.

Same goes for prosecutions from states like Texas, where lawmakers banned abortion and also enabled people to file lawsuits against doctors, clinics, and people who help others get abortions.

And the people are coming. Washington reported performing nearly 140 more abortions per month than it did before the Supreme Court’s Dobbs ruling overturned Roe v. Wade, according to OPB’s analysis of a new study. Meanwhile, Idaho reports “fewer than 10 abortions per month” during the same time period. 

For both civil and criminal action, the shield law prohibits Washington’s courts from issuing–and the state’s police from enforcing–legal action such as subpoenas, warrants, or extradition orders for these protected health care services. Businesses also cannot turn over records requests or comply with subpoenas. Plus, the Washington Attorney General can order someone to not violate the act.

State Rep. Drew Hansen (D-Bainbridge Island) sponsored the bill. The law aims to prevent states such as Idaho and Texas from using Washington’s judicial systems to enforce laws limiting access to health care, he said. 

Hansen began crafting the bill after the Dobbs decision leaked. “We decided if states like Texas want to be creative and aggressive in enforcing their laws against abortion, we would be creative and aggressive in fighting back,” he said.

The law protects constitutional rights, but it is also practical, said Alizeh Bhojani, policy counsel in Washington for Legal Voice, an advocacy group for women and LGBTQ+ people. Lawmakers across the country are creating chaos by passing so many questionable laws restricting gender care for transgender people and reproductive health care, she said. The shield law insulates Washington from some of that upheaval. 

In terms of gender-affirming care, the law protects information about Washington doctors giving hormones or therapy to patients from elsewhere. This session, Idaho lawmakers passed a law banning doctors from providing such care to transgender youth. That law is set to go into effect Jan. 1, 2024. So, Washington doctors could provide protected care to kids from Idaho, but once that patient returned home, they’d be subject to Idaho’s laws. Nothing in those laws makes it illegal for youth to take medications such as puberty blockers, however, but Idaho pharmacies cannot supply those medications to children. 

As a further protective measure, another bill from House Rep. Marcus Riccelli that passed today would shield doctors from disciplinary action taken against them for providing reproductive or gender-affirming care. 

This week lawmakers also passed through both chambers Senate Bill 5599, which allows underage people living in a shelter for homeless or runaway youth to access protected health care services, such as abortion and gender care, without parental consent. Host homes can also house youth without parental consent if the youth is seeking protected health care services. Host homes are private homes registered with the State that provide temporary shelter for youths.

For people concerned about period tracking apps and other personal data, the State Legislature also passed through both chambers Senate Bill 1155, which regulates the collection, sharing, and selling of consumer health data.  

Finally, the Legislature also passed Sen. Karen Keiser’s bill to authorize the Department of Corrections to disperse the stockpile of abortion pills Governor Jay Inslee just picked up.