Washington state prohibits Texas-style abortion lawsuits

A Washington state measure that prohibits legal action against people seeking an abortion and those who aid them was signed into law Thursday by the governor, in a move designed to rebut recent actions by conservative states.

"We know this bill is necessary because this is a perilous time for the ability of people to have the freedom of choice that they have enjoyed for decades," said Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat.

The bill signing comes just days after the Legislature in neighboring Idaho approved a bill that allows lawsuits by potential family members to enforce a ban on abortions performed after six weeks of pregnancy.

RELATED: Texas abortions fell 60% in 1st month under new limits

Conservative legislatures in several states have either passed or proposed new abortion restrictions in anticipation of possible changes to the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court.

Washington’s measure, which takes effect in June, prohibits the state from taking any action against an individual seeking to end their pregnancy or for assisting someone who is pregnant in obtaining an abortion.

"It's modernizing the language so it becomes more inclusive, and the most important part for me is really, it strengthens the protection for both patients and providers against any actions, who are adding or assisting an individual exercising their rights," said Rep. My-Linh Thai, who sponsored the bill. 

The language is in response to a Texas law, which took effect last September, and which bans abortion after roughly six weeks of pregnancy and makes no exceptions in cases of rape or incest. The enforcement of the law is left up to private citizens, who can collect $10,000 or more if they bring a successful lawsuit against a provider or anyone who helps a patient obtain an abortion.

"We know that abortion is a medical procedure and it has been effective in saving people’s lives in a variety of ways, and that’s one reason why Washington has stood for decades for a person’s right of choice," Inslee said. 

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