Anti-Choice Provisions Go Down in Alaska, Washington State

This follows last month's legal victories for pro-choice advocates in Alabama and Arkansas.

In Washington state, a settlement was reached in a case against a Skagit County public hospital that refused to provide abortion care. Shutterstock

Long-standing anti-choice policies in Alaska fell by the wayside last week while a public hospital in Washington state agreed to provide abortion care, marking the latest legal victories for pro-choice advocates. 

This follows court decisions in July blocking a GOP-backed Alabama law designed to make it almost impossible for a person younger than 18 to access abortion care, along with a raft of anti-choice laws passed by Arkansas’ Republican-dominated legislature.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) challenged Alaska Medical Board provisions that required people seeking abortion care after the first trimester to travel out of state. The ACLU described the anti-choice regulations as “outdated, unnecessary, and unconstitutional.” The lawsuit led the state medical board to rewrite the regulations, which had stood for 40 years, according to the ACLU.

In Washington state, a settlement was reached in a case against a Skagit County public hospital that refused to provide abortion care. The hospital agreed to provide that care and add training for abortion procedures to its family practice residency program. The lawsuit against the Skagit hospital was the latest in a campaign by the ACLU of Washington to ensure all public hospitals are complying with the state’s Reproductive Privacy Act (RPA). A public hospital district in Washington state must provide abortion services if it offers maternity services under the RPA, which was enacted after passing in a 1991 ballot measure. 

“This settlement is an important step toward ensuring every public hospital in Washington that provides maternity care fulfills its legal obligation to provide access to abortion—medical care that is an essential part of reproductive freedom,” Leah Rutman, policy counsel for the ACLU of Washington, said in a statement

This summer’s legal winning streak by pro-choice advocates is the latest evidence that anti-choice laws and regulations violate basic rights, Brigitte Amiri, senior staff attorney for the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said in a statement.

Politicians are as determined as ever to obstruct access to basic reproductive rights—but we intend to keep fighting back with vigor and creativity. We know the law is on our side and have a string of recent victories from Arkansas and Alabama to Washington and Alaska to prove it,” Amiri said. “No one should be forced to travel extreme distances to get the full range of reproductive health care and now, the women of Alaska and of Skagit County, Washington, will be able to get the care they need much closer to home.”