The Seattle City Council has voted in favor of a bill making it a “sanctuary city” for abortion. This was passed in spite of the fact that abortion remains legal throughout Washington state.
The bill was proposed by Councilmember Kshama Sawant at a news conference on June 24, the day the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. “Laws violating basic bodily autonomy and criminalizing reproductive health care are fundamentally unjust and we should not allow Seattle to be complicit,” she said on Tuesday. “Let anyone frightened by draconian anti-abortion laws come to Seattle without fear of prosecution.”
The bill, which was passed unanimously, bars Seattle police from arresting people on warrants issued in other jurisdictions, as well as from aiding in investigations related to seeking or committing abortions. It’s modeled after Seattle’s Initiative 75, which bans the Seattle Police Department from arresting people on charges relating to cannabis, even though it is still illegal on the federal level.
“The reality is the states that have passed draconian anti-abortion laws also make it impossible to be licensed to provide reproductive health care,” Sawant told the Seattle Times. “And as a result, people are forced to find other illegal ways to do the same thing.”
Councilmember Lisa Herbold also said she wants to expand abortion access for people traveling to Seattle. “I’m really looking forward to working to find ways to expand abortion access and protect what can only be called medical refugees, people who are coming here and cannot receive basic health care in their home states,” she said. Along with Councilmember Tammy Morales, Herbold introduced a pair of bills protecting abortion. The first amends city codes to protect women who undergo abortions, while the second penalizes anyone, including health care providers, from interfering with someone’s decision to undergo an abortion.
“The idea is to create, as a protected class, people who are seeking abortions, especially because we anticipate that there will be a lot of people coming to Washington seeking care,” Morales said. “We want to make sure that they aren’t targeted by restaurants or hotels or any other sort of entity that they are visiting while they’re here seeking that care.”
She added of the second bill, “[It] creates a misdemeanor or a civil infraction for people who encroach on people seeking abortion at a reproductive health care facility, and would also extend to folks who are looking for gender-affirming care.”
It would also require protesters to remain eight feet away from abortion facilities, although these buffer zones have previously been found unconstitutional in the 2014 Supreme Court Case, McCullen v. Coakley.
Both of the bills protecting abortion have been approved in committee and will be voted on by the council on August 9th.
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