Protecting Abortion Access in Seattle

The Seattle City Council is working to pass laws safeguarding reproductive rights and ensure everyone in Seattle, Washington State, and beyond has access to safe abortions and healthcare.

In May 2022, when news of the impending Supreme Court decision to take away abortion rights was made public, the Council passed Resolution 32054 urging Congress to codify Roe v. Wade into law. The resolution also outlined the initial steps the City of Seattle should take to protect access to reproductive healthcare. Now, the Seattle City Council are working on implementing that approach and finding other ways to support patients.

While abortion remains legal in Washington, steps must be taken to expand access and prepare for the influx of people coming to our region to receive care from states that will soon outlaw abortion. The Guttmacher Institute estimates there will be a 385 percent increase in patients seeking an abortion in Washington State because of new laws restricting access.

Legislation

Description Sponsor(s) Summary Legislation Date Passed by Council
Prohibits false and misleading advertising by limited services pregnancy centers, a.k.a. crisis pregnancy centers.
Morales
Herbold
Learn More CB 120399 September 6, 2022
Adds people who have received or are seeking abortions as a protected class, ensuring their civil rights’ protections.
Morales
Herbold
Strauss
Learn More CB 120374 August 9, 2022
Creates a misdemeanor charge for people who encroach on individuals seeking abortions or gender affirming care.
Morales
Herbold
Strauss
Learn More CB 120376 August 9, 2022
Appropriates $250,000 of city funds to fund expanded access to reproductive healthcare by making an investment in Northwest Abortion Access Fund.
Mosqueda
Learn More CB 120366 August 2, 2022
Establishes Seattle as a sanctuary city for those seeking abortion care and prevent the Seattle Police from pursuing out-of-state warrants related to abortions.
Sawant
Learn More CB 120375 July 26, 2022

Your Abortion Rights in Washington State

  • Abortion is still legal in Washington State
  • People have the right to an abortion before fetal viability (usually about 24-25 weeks into pregnancy)
  • People can get an abortion at or after fetal viability if it is required to protect your health or your life.
  • If you are pregnant, you can independently make the decision about whether to have an abortion without getting permission from your parents or partner, regardless of your age.
  • People are allowed to have an abortion regardless of your immigration status.

Learn More

Abortion Care and Advocacy Resources

Find abortion care providers
This list, maintained by the Northwest Abortion Access Fund, can help people looking for abortion services find care.

How to pay for abortion care
Seattle-King County Public Health has launched this website with information about how to pay for your procedure and find care in King County.

Northwest Abortion Access Fund (NWAFF)
The Northwest Abortion Access Fund (NWAFF) abortion fund serving Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Alaska. Trained, compassionate volunteer advocates run its toll-free hotline: (866) 692-2310. The NWAAF helps people pay for their abortion care by sending funding directly to the clinic. It also helps people get to and from the clinic and makes sure people traveling for care have a safe place to stay.

Pro-Choice Washington
Pro-Choice Washington, formerly NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, is a leading grassroots advocacy organization for reproductive freedom in Washington state. 

Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawai'i, Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky (PPGNHAIK) is a leader in providing reproductive health care, rights, and education in Alaska, Hawai'i,, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky and western Washington.

Cedar River Clinics
Cedar River Clinics is a social justice organization that combines direct services (abortion, birth control, reproductive healthcare), with advocacy and activism (to preserve and ensure access) and community education (to demystify health information and empower health decisions.)

The History of Abortion in Washington

Like many places in America, abortion was legal in Washington State through about the first four months of pregnancy until the early 1900s. As Planned Parenthood points out, “From colonial days until those first laws, abortion was a regular part of life for women. Common law allowed abortion prior to ‘quickening’ — an archaic term for fetal movement that usually happens after around four months of pregnancy.”

However, in 1909, Washington outlawed the procedure making abortion a crime except in cases it was required to save the mother’s life. That did not stop people from having abortions – it made them more dangerous, especially for poor people. People with money could obtain abortions from doctors who were willing to bend the rules and say the abortions were needed for medical reasons. According to HistoryLink.com, one Seattle travel agency even advertised $1,000 trips for wealthy women to have the procedure done in Japan. However, for people without those connections or wealth, particularly people of color, the only option was a dangerous underground network of illicit abortion providers.

In 1967, the bodies of two women in their early twenties were found, killed as the result of botched abortion procedures. Their deaths inspired a group of Seattle residents to start a campaign for Referendum 20 to legalize abortion for women “not quick with child” and within “four lunar months” of conception. It also required married women to get their husband’s consent to have an abortion. The referendum passed with 56 percent of the vote.

The law went into effect in 1970. Three years later, the Supreme Court ruled on Roe v. Wade superseding parts of Referendum 20 and making it so that married women no longer had to get their husband’s permission to have an abortion in Washington.

In 1991, amid mounting challenges to Roe v. Wade in the Supreme Court, Washington narrowly passed Initiative 120 with 50.1 percent of the vote. The initiative codified Roe v. Wade saying, “the state may not deny or interfere with a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion prior to viability of the fetus, or to protect her life or health.”

Since then, Washington has passed the 2018 Reproductive Parity Act and other bills to ensure most insurance plans cover reproductive health care, including abortion.

In 2020, the latest data available, there were more than 16,000 abortions in Washington State. However, challenges with access to reproductive health care are still a problem. In 2017, 10 percent of women aged 15-44 in Washington lived in a county that did not have a single abortion provider. Here’s a closer look at the data:

  • 16,050 Abortions in Washington in 2020
  • 5,376 in King County in 2020
  • WA Abortion rate went from 16.67 per 1,000 Washington residents in 2009 to 10.74 in 2020.
  • 59 percent of Washington counties did not have an abortion provider in 2017
  • 10 percent of women aged 15-44 in Washington lived in a county without an abortion provider in 2017