In a Tuesday ruling, Skagit County Superior Court Judge Raquel Montoya-Lewis declared that public hospitals in the state of Washington must offer abortions on site if they also provide maternity care.
The ruling was prompted by a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union, which claimed that hospitals in the region were not complying with state laws regarding abortion.
According to the Seattle Times, current state law “requires the state to pay for voluntary abortions for low-income women, and says that if a public hospital provides maternity services it must also provide ‘substantially equivalent’ abortion services.”
Apparently, the hospital isn’t providing abortions because no one wants to commit them. From the Times:
The hospital argued that it’s OK with having abortions performed on-site, but that it doesn’t have staff members who are willing to provide the services. The law allows health-care providers to opt out of providing abortions, but the judge said that doesn’t give the entire hospital a right not to offer abortions.
“The key distinction here is that individual providers may choose either to provide or not provide these services, but the state, acting here through the Hospital District, cannot exercise such an opt out clause,” wrote Judge Montoya-Lewis. “The Hospital District must comply with its responsibility under the (Reproductive Privacy Act), and the Court sees no tenable reason why it cannot.”
The ACLU also sent letters to other hospitals in the state, threatening further lawsuits if they continue to refuse to offer abortions.
Prior to this, the hospitals were regularly referring patients to Planned Parenthood for abortions.