Kuderer’s Pregnant Patient Protections Act signed into law

OLYMPIA – A bill that protects pregnant patients’ access to health care during urgent medical situations was signed into law today by Governor Inslee.

Senate Bill 5140, sponsored by Sen. Patty Kuderer (D-Bellevue), will 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.

Stories of delayed and denied care were shared during committee testimony on SB 5140. One such story includes a Bellingham mental health counselor, Alison, who nearly lost her life due to pregnancy complications. Rather than receiving immediate care, Alison’s doctor consulted with the hospital’s ethics committee. Alison ended up having a miscarriage in a bathroom.

Patients may be placed at 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 their care had been delayed or denied by 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.”

The bill goes into effect on July 25.

[Committee testimony, Sen. Kuderer floor speech in support of SB 5140]