Frequently asked questions about health professionals and abortions in the state of Washington

The US Supreme Court is expected to issue an opinion in June 2022, which may affect the current Rowe vs. Wade ruling. Professional health regulators in Washington state recognize that if Rowe vs. Wade is affected, this may raise concerns about the practice of our licensees.

The Washington State Medical Commission, the Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery Board, the Nursing Quality Assurance Commission, and the Pharmacy Quality Assurance Commission wrote these FAQs to clarify how Washington regulators will continue to address with this issue, regardless of the decision of the US Supreme Court.

What is the history of abortion laws in Washington state?

Washington became one of the first states to decriminalize abortion before Rowe and Wade in 1970 with Referendum 20. Initiative 120 was adopted in 1991. Initiative 120 ensures that “the state cannot deny or interfere with the rights of a pregnant person. to choose to have an abortion before the viability of the fetus or to protect its life or health ‘.

The Reproductive Parity Act became law in June 2018. This legislation improved access to reproductive health benefits and preventive services for all residents of Washington. He also clarified that health plans may not limit abortion services and that if health coverage includes maternity care, it must also provide abortion-enabled coverage.

The Washington Act on Confirmation of Access to Abortion, in force since June 9, 2022, helps maintain pregnant women’s access to abortion care. This legislation expands the list of providers legally authorized to terminate pregnancies and updates the language of Initiative 120 of 1991 to include transgender, non-binary and gender-expansive people such as those eligible for abortion care. It ensures that abortion service providers in Washington will be able to serve anyone who comes to Washington State seeking abortion services.

Will abortions remain legal in Washington state?


The Washington law states that “every person has a fundamental right to privacy with respect to personal reproductive decisions,” including “a fundamental right to choose or refuse to have an abortion.” (RCW 9.02.100)

In addition, state law clarifies that no one can interfere with the right of a pregnant woman to choose an abortion before the viability of the fetus, nor with the right of the doctor to have an abortion. (RCW 9.02.110). For more information on viability, see below.

Under current state law, state regulators cannot prevent, prevent, impede or prevent a medical professional acting within their scope from performing an abortion that meets the state standard of care.

What is an abortion and how many weeks can an abortion be performed?

Washington law defines abortion as “any medical treatment designed to cause an abortion except for the purpose of live birth.” (RCW 02/09/17)

In Washington, abortion is legal to the extent that the fetus is viable or to protect the life or health of the pregnant woman. (RCW 9.02.110) Viability is defined as ‘the point of pregnancy where there is a reasonable likelihood of lasting survival of the fetus outside the uterus without the application of emergency medical measures’.

Viability is determined by the judgment of a physician, PA, ARNP, or other health care provider acting within the scope of the provider’s practice on the specific facts of the case. (RCW 02/09/17)

In addition, Washington considers the practitioner’s good faith judgment to be lawful as protection against violations of RCW 9.02. This means that if a pregnant woman’s viability or health is in question, bona fide suppliers are usually protected.

How government regulators determine discipline and licensing, if Rowe vs. Wade is inverted?

The decision does not affect the way health professors work in Washington state.

Regulators in Washington are based on complaints. Each complaint submitted to a state health regulator will be assessed on the basis of its own unique facts and circumstances, as is currently the practice.

The Unified Disciplinary Act (UDA) sets the standards for discipline, licensing and powers given to health regulators and the Minister of Health. Section UDA RCW 18.130.180 describes what constitutes unprofessional conduct. Regulators of the health professions use their discretion, both in terms of licensing and in terms of discipline, to enforce these laws.

In Washington, abortion with the means established in RCW 9.02.170, which does not harm the pregnant woman and is before the viability of the fetus, does not amount to a violation of the UDA.

In general, Washington does not impose disciplinary or deny a license based solely on licensing status or discipline in another state.

Who can have an abortion in Washington state?

A doctor (MD), osteopath (DO), assistant doctor (PA), registered nurse (ARNP) or other healthcare provider acting within the scope of the provider’s practice may provide abortion as defined in RCW 9.02.170 within their scope in practice. (EHB 1851, Chapter 65, Laws of 2022)

In addition, the Washington regulation obliges all emergency hospitals to provide emergency contraception as an option for treating any woman seeking treatment for sexual assault. (WAC 246-320-286)

Providers can refer patients and the public to the Washington State Department of Health website for a collection of resources on who can provide abortions, insurance coverage mandates, privacy laws, and more: the DOH Abortion Resources website.

Can a pharmacist dispense hormonal, non-hormonal, or emergency contraceptives in Washington state?

Yes, the pharmacist may dispense hormonal, non-hormonal or emergency contraceptives in accordance with a valid prescription or schedule. As with all prescribed medicines, pharmacists must comply with all applicable laws and regulations when dispensing hormonal, non-hormonal or emergency contraceptives, including the requirement to ensure that the prescribed contraceptive is safe and appropriate for each patient (WAC 246-945-305 ( 2).

All complaints received from the Pharmacy Commission related to the granting of hormonal, non-hormonal or emergency contraceptives by pharmacists will be considered and evaluated. The Pharmacy Commission will evaluate each complaint based on its facts and circumstances.

Several councils and commissions are united – here’s how.

The following professional health regulators acknowledge that while a U.S. Supreme Court ruling may affect the rights of pregnant women nationally, Washington state law will not be changed by such a ruling. For information on how each committee deals with this issue, please click on the following links:

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