Cantwell Demands Answers from DOJ on the Post-Roe Protections of Washingtonians

Cantwell: “We need to provide certainty so they can provide the full range of healthcare services, regardless of where that patient comes from.”

SEATTLE, WA – Today, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland asking for clarity on current law and potential federal actions to protect patients and providers following the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade.

In a press conference at the Brotman Surgery Pavilion at UW Medical Center alongside medical providers, Planned Parenthood leaders and abortion advocates, Cantwell said that healthcare providers and patients in pro-choice states like Washington need clarity on three points:

  • What we need to do to better provide for healthcare workers in pro-choice states like Washington;
  • Which laws in other states put our healthcare workers at risk;
  • What the DOJ can do to strengthen protections for healthcare workers against attacks from vigilante groups.

“We need to provide certainty so they can provide the full range of healthcare services, regardless of where that patient comes from,” Sen. Cantwell said. “They’re going to provide women who desperately need this care the comfort and the knowledge that they can have these healthcare discussion is in our state – but we need to protect our healthcare delivery system here in Washington state.”

“When abortion becomes illegal in Idaho and many, many more patients start crossing the border for care, we don’t know what it’s going to mean for our system,” said Jennifer Allen, Chief Executive Officer at Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates.

“Many of our providers have expressed concern regarding the attempts to criminalize abortion and punish abortion providers, and have legitimate concerns about their own safety from people who are acting as vigilantes,” said Dr. Barbara A. Goff, MD, UW Professor, Chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

“(Health care workers) are already starting to see women travel from as close as Idaho to as far away (as) Texas to receive care. These are patients who are scared, who are confused. They want to know why they can't receive the care they need close to home,” said Dr. Nariman Heshmati, OB-GYN, Washington State Medical Association. “While the OBGYNs here and all the healthcare workers are committed to providing that care, there's worry about what this is going to do to access -- what this is going to do for delays in care. We could see a fivefold increase in the number of reproductive age women (for whom) their closest abortion provider is right here in Washington state.”

According to the Guttmacher Institute, Washington state could see a 385% increase in patients seeking abortions, with most potentially coming from neighboring Idaho that has a trigger law to ban abortions.

Sen. Cantwell is also a co-sponsor of the My Body, My Data Act, which would create a new national standard to protect personal health care data by minimizing personal data from being collected, retained, disclosed, or misused. A summary of the bill is available HERE.

Video from today’s event is available HERE, audio HERE, and a full transcript HERE.