DOH issues abortion care policy statement; Washington state law to maintain current framework for providing abortions are part of emergency medical treatment

June 18, 2024

This week the Department of Health (DOH), following a directive from Gov. Inslee last week, issued a new policy statement “Emergency Abortion Care in Hospitals Providing Emergency Services.” The policy reflects the DOH view of state law’s current requirements. DOH is issuing the statement in advance of a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court that could allow state with laws more restrictive on abortion access to override federal law requiring abortion access to treat an emergency condition in a pregnant person.

The bottom line for Washington hospitals is that, whatever the ruling from the Supreme Court, existing Washinton state law will maintain the current framework for providing abortions as a part of emergency medical treatment for pregnant persons.

In the policy statement, DOH states, “Hospitals that provide emergency services are required to provide immediate access to abortion services or, if authorized under RCW 70.170.060(2), WAC 246-320-281(1), and other applicable state and federal law, secure a transfer to another hospital when necessary to meet the needs of patients presenting to their emergency departments with an emergency medical condition.” Importantly, the statement recognizes, that as is the case with treatment for any emergency medical condition, not all facilities will be equipped to provide the full range of emergency abortion services. In such cases a patient may need to be transferred to a facility with the necessary capability. (Taya Briley)


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