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The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.

In Our View: State must continue to protect abortion rights

The Columbian
Published: March 8, 2023, 6:03am

Less than a year after the U.S. Supreme Court left abortion policy up to the states, legal questions continue to mount and political divisions continue to expand. Washington leaders and a majority of the public have remained steadfast in defending and protecting abortion rights – and they should continue to do so.

The need for that mandate has been highlighted by several recent news stories.

One involves a lawsuit in Texas against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, seeking to rescind approval for a medication that has been used safely and effectively for 20 years to end pregnancies in their first 10 weeks. The drug mifepristone frequently is used in conjunction with misoprostol to induce an abortion.

In a separate lawsuit, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson and 11 other states have challenged FDA limitations on the use of mifepristone. In order to prescribe or distribute the drug, doctors and pharmacies must receive special certification, a requirement typically reserved for drugs with a strong risk of adverse effects.

According to the journal Nature, fewer than 0.3 percent of those who use mifepristone and misoprostol require hospitalization following the procedure. Nature also writes that plaintiffs in Texas fail to cite a case of adverse effects.

Prior to last year’s Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson, those facts would provide solace for supporters of abortion rights. But given the current court’s demonstrated dogma, nothing can be presumed regarding reproductive laws.

While the legal questions are important, they are best understood by examining real-life impacts. One example can be found in a story written by The Seattle Times and posted at Columbian.com, detailing the story of a Texas woman who traveled to Washington for an abortion.

With some states attempting to outlaw interstate travel for the purpose of obtaining an abortion, Ferguson has announced that several Washington law firms have signed up to provide free legal services for women facing abortion-related prosecution in their home states.

In another example of the collision at the intersection of individual rights and abortion policy, the recent arrest of a South Carolina woman who used medication in 2021 to terminate a pregnancy has drawn international attention.

All of which exacerbates national divisions. Consensus regarding abortion rights is beyond reach; opinions on opposite sides of the issue are equally strident. But we have reached a dangerous point.

As much as any issue, abortion is creating two separate Americas, far from the general consensus that the procedure should be “safe, legal and rare.” Some 30 years after both parties generally agreed, the goal articulated by President Bill Clinton seems a distant memory.

In Washington, the public long has supported the right to an abortion. In 1970 — three years before Roe v. Wade — voters codified legalized abortion during the first trimester of pregnancy. Now, it is important for the state to emphasize that government should not interfere with the decisions of consenting adults regarding abortion or other personal matters.

Various prospective legislation would block out-of-state subpoenas for information about abortions performed here; safeguard information about gender-affirming health care; and help keep apps that track ovulation from sharing information.

The common thread between these measures is a desire to protect privacy and individual freedom — beliefs that Washingtonians have always held sacrosanct.