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Seattle City Council makes it a misdemeanor to 'encroach' on individuals seeking abortions or transgender care

Chona Kasinger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Seattle will soon be a sanctuary city for those seeking abortions and sex-change procedures after Mayor Bruce Harrell signed a package of laws on Monday, in response to the U.S. Supreme Court's Dobbs decision in June that overturned Roe v. Wade.

The city council passed four bills, which Harrell signed on Aug. 15, that expand civil rights protections to women seeking an abortion and create a misdemeanor charge for people who "encroach on individuals seeking abortions or gender affirming care."

“The Supreme Court’s decision is a dangerous and decades-long leap backwards that will lead to significant and harmful consequences for women and all those seeking abortions, with disproportionate impacts falling on women of color. We must use every tool available to safeguard fundamental civil rights of privacy and autonomy,” Mayor Harrell said in a statement.

“These bills take necessary action to ensure that Seattle is a city where abortion and reproductive healthcare are available to all who seek it and that we are ready and able to safely serve patients from out of state seeking care here. I want to thank the advocates and providers who have stood firm in their commitment to safe, accessible care," he added.

The new legislation establishes women seeking abortions as a protected class, extending civil rights protections to them. One of the bills establishes Seattle as a sanctuary city for abortion care and prevents Seattle Police from cooperating with out-of-state warrants related to abortion. The city also appropriated $250,000 to expand access to abortions by funding the Northwest Abortion Access Fund.

Washington state law provides that children under 18 may pursue medical services without parental consent, including abortions or gender care, if they have been determined by a health care provider to be a mature minor. Depending on the provider, a child may get puberty blockers and/or hormone treatment at any age without an adult's consent as part of birth control services. Children age 13 or older may also be able to get gender identity consultations without parental notice or consent as part of outpatient mental health treatment, according to the Northwest Justice Project.

It is unclear whether parents who object to their children pursuing abortions or so-called gender-affirming care would face misdemeanor charges under Seattle's new law. The Seattle City Council's communications department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

City Council members characterized the legislation as protecting access to health care services in remarks delivered at the bill signing ceremony at City Hall.

“Everyone in Seattle has heard of the Big One, that catastrophic earthquake that will occur at any moment. The Supreme Court’s decision in [Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization] is an earthquake. It’s the Big One,” Councilwoman Lisa Herbold said, according to KIRO-FM.

“Like the earthquake that we know is coming, Dobbs will also create a tidal wave in the form of an influx of medical refugees who live in states where they are suddenly unable to get the health care that they need, and they’re forced to cross state lines in search of it,” Herbold added. “Here in Seattle, we must be ready for them and meet them with the care and protection that is lacking in their home states.”

She noted that abortion providers and health care organizations have estimated Washington state could see four times as many people traveling from other states to obtain abortions, as Republican-led states move to restrict abortion.

Councilwoman Tammy Morales praised the city for using taxpayer dollars to fund abortions.

“On June 24th, the Supreme Court disregarded 50 years of precedents and achieved their agenda to take away a person’s right to choose by forcing people to give birth against their will. And I want to be clear this is the first time in our country’s history that a fundamental right has been taken away from our countrymen and people,” Morales said. “This is no longer a theoretical exercise. We see assaults on our courts, on marginalized communities. We see the reduction of rights and every level of government has a vital role to play in ensuring bodily autonomy for our neighbors and ensuring that we all have access to self-determination.”

Morales vowed to pursue further legislation to censor crisis pregnancy centers, which are pro-life clinics that offer counseling, financial and educational resources, and help or adoption referrals to new mothers. Echoing national Democratic politicians, Morales claimed crisis pregnancy centers are conservative Christian organizations that use false or misleading information to dissuade women from pursuing abortions.

“Our legislation would work to ensure that these facilities cannot make public statements that are false or misleading by creating penalties for engaging in deceptive practices,” Morales said.

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