Dear friends and neighbors,

This week’s release of a draft U.S. Supreme Court opinion suggesting the Court may be poised to overturn Roe v. Wade represents a radical and dangerous attack on the right to privacy under the federal constitution, potentially calling into question rights from access to contraceptives to marriage equality. Here in Washington, our state constitution has provided explicit protection for the right to privacy since it was adopted in 1889.

Our state also has a long history of protecting abortion rights, starting with a 1970 referendum approved by the voters. Access to safe and legal reproductive services will continue to be available regardless of what the Court’s final decision says. In fact, this year the legislature passed House Bill 1851 to support our trained health care providers and ensure that abortion care is safely regulated while ending unnecessary restrictions.

Washington was the first state to legalize abortion through a vote of the people in 1970. In this photo from MOHAI, supporters of abortion reform board buses during the Referendum 20 campaign in Seattle on March 28, 1970.

Although people in Washington will be protected, we must continue fighting for the fundamental rights of everyone in the United States.  Those rights are in jeopardy under a Court that is far out of step with the people of Washington and our country. I was glad to see so many of my colleagues at the state and federal level voice strong opposition to any attack on the rights we treasure here in Washington. I will continue to work with my colleagues to strengthen our state protections and ensure providers have the resources to make sure Washington is a sanctuary for individuals seeking safe abortion care.

Improving health care

Ensuring safe access to abortion care was just one on the health care issues the Legislature considered during this year’s legislative session.

I was proud to support critical health care investments in the supplemental budget, including $450 million to increase access to services for people with a developmental disability or with long-term care needs. We allocated roughly another $350 million to strengthen our state’s popular Paid Family and Medical Leave program and added nearly $150 million for COVID-19 testing and outbreak response.

In addition to those investments, we passed several pieces of legislation to improve access to care. Here are a few highlights:

  • Drug affordability: SB 5546 caps the price of insulin at $35 a month, bringing it down from $100 a month, so Washingtonians who depend on this lifesaving medication can afford it. SB 5532 creates a prescription drug affordability board to help restrain skyrocketing prescription drug prices, and SB 5610 will protect health plan consumers from discriminatory copay restrictions.
  • Healthy parents and babies: HB 1651 will support maternal and newborn health by increasing access to immediate postpartum contraception for all patients, and SB 5702 will require health insurance coverage for donor breastmilk. SB 5765 will ensure families receive timely access to care by allowing licensed midwives to treat for common conditions of pregnancies immediately, and HB 1881 will create a birth doula certification to make doulas accessible for the 52% of Washington births covered by Medicaid.
  • Expanding access to care: HB 1616 will expand access to free and reduced-price healthcare to 2.2 million Washingtonians by standardizing the way hospitals in Washington provide and bill for services to patients receiving charity care.
  • Apple Health and Homes: My seatmate Rep. Chopp led efforts to pass the groundbreaking HB 1866, which will address chronic homelessness as a medical condition so more people can find stable housing and access medically necessary services through the Apple Health and Homes program.
  • Supporting victims of child abuse: SB 5814 will create a permanent funding stream to make medical evaluations easier to access and less traumatic for children suspected of being victims of child abuse.
  • Audio-only telemedicine fees: HB 1708 will prevent hospitals from charging uninsured patients a facility fee for audio-only telemedicine.
  • Children’s behavioral health: HB 1890 will create a comprehensive, statewide plan to expand access to behavioral healthcare so Washington’s children, youth and young families can get the care they need, when and where they need it.
  • Assisted outpatient treatment: HB 1773 will provide better access to treatment in the community for Washingtonians with serious behavioral health issues.

Thanks for taking the time to read this update. If you missed my previous newsletters on climate action, public safety, education, transportation, or housing, they are available on my website.