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What does Idaho's pending ban on abortion mean for Washington state?

caption: The Idaho State Capitol building in Boise.
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The Idaho State Capitol building in Boise.
Colleen Benelli / Flickr

Abortion is still legal and protected here in Washington.

But last week's Supreme Court decision on abortion rights has big implications for our neighbor to the east: Idaho.

In 2020, the Idaho state Legislature passed an abortion trigger law, making abortion a felony for all but a few situations — rape, incest, or to save the pregnant person's life.

If an incest or rape victim wanted to get an abortion, they'd be required to present a copy of a police report to the physician performing the procedure. On Monday, Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit to try and block the state's abortion ban from taking effect.

But if a judge rejects that suit, clinics in eastern Washington — like Spokane and Yakima — will become the closest facilities for many pregnant people in Idaho to access an abortion.

Soundside host Libby Denkmann spoke to Rachel Sun, a reporter for Northwest Public Broadcasting, The Lewiston Tribune, and the Moscow-Pullman Daily News about how clinics in eastern Washington are preparing for an influx of patients.

"They're expecting to see a lot more patients," Sun said. "This past legislative session passed Senate Bill 1851, which expanded the number of providers in the state that can provide abortion care. So, instead of just physicians, it's also physician assistants, advanced registered nurse practitioners, or other health-care providers that are acting within their scope of practice. They're going to be trying to expand their services as much as they can."

Denkmann also talked to Associate Professor Sital Kalantry from Seattle University School of Law about the legal fight over abortion access in Idaho and the rest of the country where abortion is not protected.

"I think what we're going to see is interstate battles, " Kalantry said. "States will quickly realize that it is difficult for them to regulate [abortion]; people want it, they will travel, they will get medical abortions, and as we've heard from organizations across the country, ready to assist."

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