A Washington state judge says public hospitals must provide abortions on-site if they also offer maternity services.
The ruling from Skagit County Superior Court Judge Raquel Montoya-Lewis on Tuesday concerned Skagit Valley Hospital, which routinely refers patients to Planned Parenthood when they seek abortions.
The ACLU of Washington brought the case last year on behalf of Kevan Coffey, a licensed nurse practitioner and doctoral student. Under Washington’s Reproductive Privacy Act, all public hospitals that offer maternity care must also offer abortions. But the hospital said none of its staff members were willing to perform abortions, according to the AP. Because the Skagit Valley Hospital was referring people off site, the ACLU argued it was not following the law. (The ACLU also sent letters to other public hospitals in the state about the same issue.)
“Today’s decision is a huge victory for women seeking access to abortion, and we hope it will serve as an example for hospitals throughout the country," ACLU senior staff attorney Brigitte Amiri said in a statement today. "At a time when much of our nation is facing numerous restrictions on access to abortion, it’s a breath of fresh air to have a court ensure women can get the care they need."
UPDATE: The lawyer representing Skagit Valley Hospital, Tom Ahearne, says the hospital's board has not yet decided whether it will appeal or how it will satisfy the judge's ruling. Ahearne says hospital leaders worry state non-discrimination laws prevent the hospital from requiring current doctors to provide abortions and from making performing abortions a job requirement for new hires. "They still feel stuck between a rock and a hard place," Ahearne says. "We were looking for the judge to give some clarity." Ahearne says the hospital's board will meet Thursday to discuss next steps.