PROTECTING REPRODUCTIVE FREEDOM

CURRENT ACTION

 

  • Advocating for affordable insurance coverage for comprehensive reproductive health care, including abortion.
     

  • Challenging laws that subject women to criminal penalties for obtaining abortion care.
     

  • Challenging policies and practices of religiously affiliated hospitals and health care systems that result in denial of access to the full range of reproductive and end-of-life care based on religious doctrine.
     

  • Arming people with knowledge about the deceptive tactics of some crisis pregnancy centers.
     

  • Working to ensure that all patients, including pregnant women, receive complete and accurate medical information so they can make informed health care decisions.
     

  • Fighting for young people's access to confidential reproductive and mental health services.

 
VICTORIES

 

  • Protecting patients' access to pharmacy care by ensuring pharmacies dispense all lawfully prescribed drugs and devices, even if an individual pharmacist has personal or moral objections.
    Stormans v. Wiesman
     

  • Successfully arguing the unconstitutionality of Idaho’s abortion statute that included a ban on abortion after 20 weeks and a requirement that second-trimester abortions take place in hospitals.
    McCormack v. Herzog

     

  • Successfully advocating for a Seattle City Council resolution calling for the repeal of federal restrictions on insurance coverage of abortion (often referred to as the Hyde Amendment)
     

  • Leading the fight to pass Initiative 120, Washington's Reproductive Privacy Act, codifying a woman's fundamental right to decide whether or not to have a child.
    Reproductive Privacy Act

     

  • Protecting women's access to reproductive health clinics.
    Aradia Women's Health Center v. Operation Rescue

     

  • Successfully advocating against criminal penalties for women who use controlled substances while pregnant.
    State v. Dunn

     

  • Advocated for a Washington Attorney General opinion affirming advanced registered nurse practitioners’ (ARNPs) authority to prescribe or furnish abortion-inducing drugs to women seeking lawful abortions.
     

  • Successfully representing a middle school student expelled from school solely because she was pregnant.
    In re S.S.

     

  • Successfully advocating for sex education that is medically accurate, respectful of sexuality, and comprehensive.
    Washington's Healthy Youth Act

     

  • Drafting and helping pass groundbreaking legislation requiring hospital emergency rooms to provide emergency birth control to sexual assault survivors.
     

  • Secured the rights of pregnant and laboring incarcerated women in Washington to be free from the inhumane practice of shackling.
    Brawley v. Department of Corrections

     

  • Ensuring that frozen "pre-embryos" are not treated as children, and that decision-making about them does not depend on genetic connection.
    Litowitz v. Litowitz

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SPOTLIGHT ON: STORMANS V. WIESMAN

 

Women are sometimes denied access to care based on a health care provider's personal or religious beliefs. At pharmacies, these denials are most often for birth control pills—especially emergency contraception (EC), also known as the morning-after pill or Plan B—and misoprostol, a drug used for many gynecological and other treatment purposes that can also be used as an abortifacient.

 

In 2007, after two years of Legal Voice advocacy, the Washington State Board of Pharmacy adopted rules requiring pharmacies to dispense all lawfully prescribed drugs and devices, including EC, even if an individual pharmacist has personal or moral objections.

 

Soon after the rules went into effect, two individual pharmacists and a pharmacy owner challenged these rules in federal court, claiming the rules infringed on their religious freedom rights. Legal Voice joined the lawsuit, Stormans, et al., v. Wiesman, et al., as co-counsel for seven individuals who intervened in the suit to protect their, and others', rights to timely access to medication.

 

The case has had many twists and turns, including a suspension of the pharmacy rules pending trial, a reversal of that suspension by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and an 11-day trial in which the judge ruled that the regulations are unconstitutional. Along with the state, we appealed that decision and in July 2015, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the constitutionality of the pharmacy rules, finding that they do not discriminate against anyone's religious beliefs. The Court affirmed what we knew all along: the rules apply to everyone, and patients' rights—not pharmacists' religious beliefs—come first.

 

In early 2016, the plaintiffs in Stormans asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the Court of Appeals decision. The Supreme Court vindicated our 11 years of advocacy by refusing to hear the case, leaving in place the Ninth Circuit's opinion about the constitutionality of the rule and protecting patients' rights to health care.

For more than thirty years, Legal Voice has been a leader in advancing and protecting women's rights to reproductive autonomy—rights that have long been subject to political debate and harmful laws. We defend every woman’s right to make choices regarding reproduction, including her decision how, whether, and when to become pregnant and what she does or does not do with her body while pregnant.

 

All too often women’s right to reproductive health care—including access to contraceptive and abortion care—is cast aside in favor of the purported desire to protect religious freedom. Our work in the courts and the Washington Legislature addresses this systematic erosion: we are dedicated to limiting health care providers’ ability to refuse to treat, refer, or inform patients about the full range of reproductive care, and employers’ ability to deny coverage based on personal beliefs.

 
 

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