Abortion rights activists holding signs in a Seattle street

An abortion rights march in April was just one recent display of local activism—and outrage.

Last night, via leak, the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative majority said its quiet part loud: “We hold that Roe and Casey must be overturned,” Justice Samuel Alito writes in a draft opinion obtained by Politico.

Alito is of course referring to the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, as well as the slightly lesser-known Planned Parenthood v. Casey ruling in 1992 that mostly upheld the previously defined constitutional right to an abortion.

That protection is in serious jeopardy. Though a draft opinion isn’t a final one, the rare reveal of a preliminary court document has made a doomsday seem more imminent and sparked a new wave of fury, including among Washington’s Democratic delegation. “As one of the 1 in 4 women in this country who have chosen to have an abortion,” congresswoman Pramila Jayapal wrote on Twitter, “I am outraged & disgusted by the reported draft SCOTUS opinion.” 

In a subsequent tweet, the West Seattle resident added an important disclaimer, though: “People are right to be scared by this news, but please remember: this is still a draft opinion, not a ruling. Roe is still the law of the land and abortion is legal here in Washington State.”

Even if the federal Roe verdict is overturned, states will decide if, and when, abortions are legal. In Washington, where people have shouted their abortions for years and rallied against anti-abortion laws in other states, abortion rights have been protected by Initiative 120 since 1991. “The state may not deny or interfere with a woman's right to choose to have an abortion prior to viability of the fetus, or to protect her life or health,” the law says.

Democratic politicians have also guarded against new challenges to abortion rights. This year, governor Jay Inslee also signed a law banning Texas-like abortion lawsuits against people ending their pregnancies and those assisting them. “NOT HERE, NOT IN OUR LIFETIME,” the governor wrote on Twitter after yesterday’s leak. “Washington is and will remain pro-choice.”

As long as pro-choice politicians hold a majority in the state legislature, that is. Currently, Democrats have advantages in the House (57-41) and Senate (29-20). But Washington Republicans propose anti-abortion bills (like this one) in Olympia annually. It doesn’t take much imagination to conjure what policies might look like if conservatives had more clout.

We’re not insulated from these Republican-led reversals of state abortion rights. Those new policies, especially Idaho’s Texas-style law, have already led to an influx of patients in our state. And that may just be the beginning. As first reported by Crosscut, overturning Roe would potentially increase the patient load here by 385 percent, according to the Guttmacher Institute. The surge could make access more cumbersome for Washington women, especially the roughly 10 percent who don’t live in a county with a clinic.

In the West, the pro-choice research organization projects Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, the Dakotas, Utah, and Arizona will enact bans on abortions if Roe gets effectively canceled. The Center for Reproductive Rights is less certain about Montana but offers a similar take on the other states.

So while Cascadia’s abortion rights will remain strong no matter what happens to Roe, neighboring states’ problems will absolutely become ours.

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