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Inslee prohibits Washington State Patrol from aiding abortion investigations

Under the directive, the state patrol must not cooperate with most subpoenas, search warrants or court orders from states that ban or restrict abortions.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Gov. Jay Inslee has issued a directive instructing the Washington State Patrol to not cooperate with out-of-state abortion investigations, a preemptive move in case states where abortion is banned or significantly restricted seek to investigate whether their residents have traveled to the state.

The order, which was finalized Thursday, was first announced by Inslee at a news conference outside the Capitol last weekend, one day after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

RELATED: What is Roe v. Wade? | Explaining the now-overturned 1973 Supreme Court decision

"Washington is and will remain a sanctuary for any person seeking abortion care and services in our state, but we must act to protect our rights and our values," Inslee wrote in his directive. "To that end, it is critical that our law enforcement agencies not cooperate in any manner with any out-of-state investigation, prosecution, or other legal action based on another state's law that is inconsistent with Washington's protections of the right to choose abortion and provide abortion-related care."

Under the directive, the state patrol must not cooperate with most subpoenas, search warrants or court orders from states with laws that ban or significantly restrict abortion access. Any request received by the patrol must be reviewed and processed in conjunction with the attorney general's office and the governor's attorney.

The governor doesn't have jurisdiction over local law enforcement agencies, but under a law passed this year, state and local law enforcement are prohibited from being able to "penalize, prosecute, or otherwise take adverse action" against an individual seeking to end their pregnancy or against anyone assisting someone who is pregnant in obtaining an abortion.

The day after the Roe v. Wade ruling, Inslee called for a state constitutional amendment to enshrine the right to an abortion and protect it in the event the makeup of the state legislature were to change. 

"We have to understand that because of this Republican assault on women's rights in this state, without a constitutional amendment to solidify this right under our state's constitution, we are one Republican majority of losing the right of choice in the state of Washington," Inslee said.

Inslee said Saturday he is calling upon the state legislature to pass legislation to expand the practice to other law enforcement agencies across the state. He pledged to enhance the state's healthcare resources to prepare for the influx of those seeking an abortion from other states with a $1 million investment. 

Inslee joined the governors of Oregon and California in a joint “multi-state commitment,” saying they will work together to defend patients and care providers. The governors said their states are preparing for an increase in people seeking abortions. 

Washington state could see a 385% increase in patients seeking an abortion, according to a study released by the Guttmacher Institute.

King County Executive Dow Constantine said the state's most populous county will devote $1 million in emergency funding to help women traveling to the Seattle area seeking abortions.

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell said the city is also working to expand access to reproductive services and that it is investing $250,000 into the Northwest Abortion Access Fund.

Harrell said the Seattle Police Department will also not help enforce abortion laws in other states.

As Washington state works to bolster abortion rights, the neighboring state of Idaho has enacted a near-total abortion ban that automatically takes effect 30 days after the court's decision.

Planned Parenthood is suing over the law and asking for an expedited schedule so the Idaho Supreme Court can hear arguments before it goes into effect, but health care providers expect that Idaho residents seeking abortion services may travel to Washington state for the procedure.

Abortion has been legal in Washington state since a 1970 statewide ballot referendum. Another ballot measure approved by voters in 1991 affirmed a woman's right to choose physician-performed abortion prior to fetal viability and further expanded and protected access to abortion in the state if Roe v. Wade was overturned.

As part of the enforcement prohibitions measure Inslee signed earlier this year, the number of providers who can provide abortions increased, after the Legislature granted specific statutory authorization for physician assistants, advanced registered nurse practitioners and other providers acting within their scope of practice.

Inslee's office said he's talking with fellow Democrats in the Legislature about additional policies to protect patient rights and data, though no specific bills have been proposed as of yet.

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