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Inslee vows to 'fight like hell' to keep Washington pro-choice after SCOTUS leak

caption: Washington Gov. Jay Inslee speaks to a crowd gathered for a pro-choice rally and press conference on Tuesday, May 3, 2022, at Kerry Park in Seattle.
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Washington Gov. Jay Inslee speaks to a crowd gathered for a pro-choice rally and press conference on Tuesday, May 3, 2022, at Kerry Park in Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Washington state officials rallied Tuesday in defense of abortion rights, saying the state will continue to serve anyone who needs access to a safe, affordable abortion.

"Washington state was a pro-choice state, Washington state is a pro-choice state, and we are going to fight like hell to keep Washington a pro-choice state," said Gov. Jay Inslee during a rally at Seattle's Kerry Park.

His remarks come after a draft opinion from the Supreme Court of the United States was leaked to Politico. The draft indicates the court could be on the verge of overturning the landmark Roe V. Wade ruling, which established a constitutional right to abortions.

RELATED: Seattle gathers after SCOTUS leak suggests Roe v Wade will be overturned

The Supreme Court released a statement Tuesday confirming the draft opinion is authentic, adding, “it does not represent a decision by the Court or the final position of any member on the issues in the case.”

If the court’s final decision reflects the draft and overturns the Roe ruling, it would be up to individual states to make their own rules on abortion access and restrictions.

Inslee highlighted three areas of focus in the coming months, including protecting those from other states who may seek access to abortions in Washington, ensuring adequate resources to provide services to anyone coming from other states seeking abortions, and exploring the possibility of codifying the right to abortion in the state's constitution.

U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a Washington Democrat, warned that the impact of a Supreme Court decision overturning Roe would be far-reaching, even if abortion remains legal in Washington state.

"If this opinion comes to pass, it will be the most horrific and unprecedented rollback of women’s rights in our history,” Jayapal said. “It’s a radical, outrageous, and deeply dangerous opinion.”

Jayapal and others said if Roe V. Wade is overturned it could open the door to other rights also being overturned.

“There is a straight line from upending abortion rights to getting rid of access to contraception, to banning gay marriage,” Jayapal said.

Many speakers highlighted that the burden of restricted access to abortion would likely fall hardest on communities who already have worse access to health care, or worse outcomes, due to structural racism and other institutional barriers.

They warn the steepest price would be paid by people of color and people in the LGBTQ community.

Officials and advocates assured Washington residents that they would continue to protect the right to abortion in the state.

Democrats in the state Legislature this year passed a new abortion rights law that formally expands the list of health-care providers who are authorized to terminate a pregnancy to include providers like physician assistants and advanced registered nurse practitioners.

The new law also prohibits criminal or civil legal action against someone who seeks an abortion or helps someone obtain an abortion, a response to recent anti-abortion laws passed in Texas and other states.

While abortion will remain legal in Washington, even if the Supreme Court’s final decision mirrors the draft opinion, the topic would be decided by state law moving forward and would therefore give the Legislature power to expand or curtail access to abortion. Action taken could depend on who controls the Legislature in a given year.

During Tuesday’s rally, Inslee and others urged people to head to the ballot box in order to protect access to abortions.

“This is not a moment for passivity, it is not a moment for simple anger, it is not a moment for pounding the desk, it is a moment for voting,” Inslee said.

State Senate Republican leader John Braun released a statement saying not much would change in Washington if the court’s draft opinion is made final.

“Whatever the law, whatever your politics, fewer abortions should be a common goal,” Braun’s statement said.

State data show abortion rates in Washington have been decreasing.

Braun's release focused on the danger of leaking Supreme Court opinions and the importance of finding who gave the document to Politico.

“If true, it’s not only illegal, it’s an unscrupulous attempt to manipulate public opinion," he said. "Unfortunately, this is already intensifying the acrimony in the debate over a very contentious issue.”

Washington congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Republican, also decried the leak of the draft opinion in a written statement.

“At this very moment, Democrats and the Left are using this breach of trust as an opportunity to spread fear and force their discriminatory pro-abortion agenda on every American,” Rodgers said.

Olympia correspondent Austin Jenkins contributed reporting to this article.

This article will be updated as more information becomes available.

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