OLYMPIA – A bill that would protect pregnant patients’ access to health care during urgent medical situations was approved by the Senate by a vote of 29-20 on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 5140, sponsored by Sen. Patty Kuderer (D-Bellevue), would bar hospitals from prohibiting health care providers from providing health care services related to miscarriage management and treatment for ectopic pregnancies.

“Women need to be safe, feel safe, and receive the best possible health care during pregnancy,” said Kuderer. “Pregnant patients should never have their lives put in jeopardy by having urgent medical care delayed or denied.”

Under current law, religiously affiliated hospitals may delay or deny critical medical care if such care is deemed in conflict with religious beliefs. Pregnant patients would then be required to seek health care from another provider, resulting in a delay or potential denial of urgent medical care.

Delayed or denied health care could lead to additional serious health issues that may not have occurred if the patient had received timely health care from the original provider.

“We heard from medical providers who suffered adverse employment consequences because they wanted to perform treatment but they were denied, or they did and they were punished for it,” said Kuderer. “Or they decided they weren’t going to do it because they were afraid they were going to be punished. This bill fixes that once and for all.”

Patients may be placed in even greater risk of COVID-19 exposure with repeated hospital visits. The potential for severe COVID-19 symptoms among pregnant patients means this issue is even more urgent now.

“Miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies are far more common than most people think,” said Kuderer. “In my own family, my sister experienced an ectopic pregnancy and my mother went through a miscarriage. If they had been treated at one of these hospitals, they might have died. This is about health equity and ensuring pregnant patients have access to medical care when they need it the most.”

SB 5140 will now go to the House of Representatives for consideration. It has until April 11 to be approved by the House to be eligible to become law this year.

The 2021 legislative session is scheduled to adjourn on April 25.


Additional information:

Sen. Kuderer: Senate Health & Long Term Care Committee Public Testimony

Additional public testimony: Senate Health & Long Term Care Committee

ReWire News: A Miscarrying Woman Nearly Died After a Catholic Hospital Sent Her Home Three Times

The Cut: Doctors at a Catholic Hospital Refused to Treat a Woman’s Miscarriage for Religious Reasons

ACLU: Catholic Hospitals Denied These Women Critical Care. Now They’re Speaking Out.

ACLU: Patient stories (info sheet); Full report