On Abortion Provider Appreciation Day: Cantwell, Murray Outline Path Forward in Fight to Protect Reproductive Health Care

SEATTLE, WA – On Abortion Provider Appreciation Day, U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Patty Murray (D-WA) held a roundtable in Seattle with Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Planned Parenthood, local abortion providers, and abortion advocates to discuss the current landscape of reproductive health care. During the roundtable, the Senators highlighted Wednesday’s re-introduction of the Women’s Health Protection Act and what the latest lawsuits against medication abortion access mean for women in Washington state and across the country.

Senators Cantwell and Murray were also joined by Dr. Erin Berry, Planned Parenthood Washington Medical Director; Rebecca Gibron, CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Northwest; and Patanjali de la Rocha of Hummingbird Indian Family Services.

“We all know that there are lawmakers who are trying to chip away at our rights by limiting safe and legal access to abortion medication, but we’re here to say we are going to fight back. We are going to continue to fight to make sure that this FDA approved drug is available here in Washington state. That the people who need access to this are going to continue to get access,” Sen. Cantwell said. “We have also seen how our service providers feel the fear of criminalization … the Idaho legislature [is trying to] make a crime — punishable by two to five years — for helping someone, a minor, get access to abortion. So these are things that we are going to continue to face.”

“Last year, we should have celebrated 50 years of Roe. But instead, we have watched newly empowered Republicans pass ban after deadly, dangerous abortion ban. We’ve seen Republicans go after IVF, birth control, and basic family planning services. And now we’re seeing them go after the ability of patients all across our country—including right here in Washington state—to get medication abortion,” said Senator Murray. “That’s why, on Wednesday, Senator Cantwell, our Democratic colleagues, and I reintroduced the Women’s Health Protection Act. This bill is not complicated. It simply restores women’s right to make their own health care decisions, and protects doctors right to provide abortion care, no matter where in America that patient or doctor lives.”

“More than three decades ago, Washington voters enshrined the right to abortion into law. Washington state remains on the forefront of the fight for reproductive justice,” said Attorney General Ferguson. “We are leading an 18-state lawsuit in federal court in Spokane to protect and expand access to abortion medication. We are pursuing the strongest reproductive privacy protections in the country. The fight for reproductive justice has never been more urgent.”

The Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA) creates federal rights for patients and providers to protect abortion access. The legislation includes federal protections against state restrictions that undermine Americans’ access to fundamental health care services and intrude upon personal decision-making. The bill would prohibit states from imposing restrictions that jeopardize access to abortion earlier in pregnancy, including many of the state-level restrictions in place prior to Dobbs, such as waiting periods or requirements to provide medically inaccurate informationLater in pregnancy, states cannot limit access to abortion if it would jeopardize the life or health of the mother. The bill also protects the ability to travel out of state for an abortion, which has become increasingly common in recent years.

As a longtime champion of reproductive rights, Sen. Cantwell intensified her push to protect health care access nationwide since the Supreme Court’s decision to rule against abortion access in Dobbs v. Jackson last year. In June, after a leaked draft opinion revealed the Supreme Court’s plans to overturn the established precedent set by Roe, Sen. Cantwell cosponsored the My Body, My Data Act to protect personal reproductive health data. In July, following a meeting with health care providers at the University of Washington Medical Center, Sen. Cantwell cosponsored the Freedom to Travel for Health Care Act to ban anti-choice states from penalizing or prosecuting health care providers that offer reproductive services in states where abortion care is legal. The same month, Sen. Cantwell also cosponsored the Right to Contraception Act, which would codify the right to contraception access established by the Supreme Court ruling Griswold v. Connecticut. Earlier this week, Sen. Cantwell joined Sen. Murray in reintroducing the Women’s Health Protection Act.