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More women from other states seeking abortions in Washington

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(The Center Square) – New research out of the University of Washington finds more women coming in from other states seeking abortions in the wake of the Dobbs decision, which allows states to set their own abortion laws.

Several states, including neighboring Idaho, have restricted abortion since the 2022 U.S. Supreme Court decision. Idaho does not allow abortion after six weeks gestation.

The UW research published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association(JAMA), tracked the number of abortions performed at the Cedar River Clinics, a large network of care sites, both before and after the Dobbs decision.

Researchers found a 50% increase in out-of-state patients (from 4% to 6%) and documented an average one-week delay in care for all patients.

“While a one week delay does not sound significant, any delays in receiving abortion care are problematic because it adversely affects the health of the pregnant person,” said Dr. Emily Godfrey, UW Medicine family medicine doctor and OB-GYN and the paper’s senior author.

In an interview with The Center Square, Dr. Godfrey said the Dobbs decision “Really puts women, millions of women who are socially or financially disadvantaged, people from black and brown communities or other marginalized communities such as adolescents, LGBTQIA, immigrants, disproportionally bearing the brunt of this and it leads to increasing health disparities.”

As published in JAMA, the research team reviewed the number of abortion procedures at Cedar River Clinics from Jan. 1, 2017, through June 23, 2022. They compared those totals with the number of abortions from June 24, 2022, through July 31, 2023.

Before Dobbs, high proportions of out-of-state patients were from Alaska (52%), Montana (9%), Idaho (8%), Oregon (6%) and Texas (6%).

After Dobbs, out-of-state patients were largely from Texas (27%) and Alaska (26%), followed by Idaho (8%), Louisiana (6%) and Florida (6%).

Brian Noble, executive director of the pro-life Family Policy Institute of Washington, spoke with The Center Square about the report.

“When it comes to smaller conservative communities, you do go out-of-state because you don’t want people to know what you’re up to.”

But Noble said he questions the numbers “because the primary focus is funding these locations.”

The report authors reference the need for additional investments.

“The increasing number of abortions, out-of-state patients and delays to care points to the need for increased investment in and resources for abortion care in Washington,” the report said.

Gov. Jay Inslee and majorityDemocrats in 2023 allocated $21 million for abortion infrastructure through 2025, the largest such allocation in recent memory.

Godfrey says she would like to see more money for research.

“I think it’s important that the governor also puts money toward some of this work that we’re doing here at the University of Washington to monitor who are these people who are accessing abortion care in Washington, so that we ensure there is health equity throughout the state.”

Inslee has championed many abortion-related support bills during his time in the governor’s mansion.

According to FPIW, among those is the 2018 passage of the “Reproductive Parity Act,” which requires all health plans in WA offering maternity care to also cover abortions, and the 2021 “Protecting Pregnancy Act,” whichallows physicians practicing in Catholic hospitals in WA to bypass the hospitals’ religious directives and provide ‘medically-necessary’ abortions.

Despite FPIW’s pro-life stance, Noble does not want to see taxpayer money going to support organizations that help women who decide not to terminate a pregnancy.

“I really don’t think the government should be involved in any of this, it’s the role of the church to step up and say we will adopt those children, take care of those children, and a lot of churches are doing that, but we need more,” he said.

Some states have added a requirement for a woman to have an ultrasound before making a final decision about their pregnancy. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 6 states mandate that an abortion provider perform an ultrasound and require the provider to show and describe the image. Many other states also require a pre-abortion ultrasound, but the doctor is only required to offer the patient the opportunity to see the image.

According to the UW report, a total of 18,379 abortions occurred during the study period from Jan. 1, 2017, to July 31, 2023. Of those abortions, 3,378 occurred in the post-Dobbs study period or between June 24, 2022, to July 31, 2023.

Washington allows abortions up to the point of fetal viability or to protect the health of the pregnant individual.

Godfrey says the next phase of their research will contain a larger data set that includes abortion statistics from Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in WA.