Washington State Healthcare Professional and Abortion Regulation FAQs

The United States Supreme Court is expected to issue an opinion in June 2022 that could impact the current Roe vs. Wade decision. Washington State professional health care regulators recognize that if Roe vs. Wade is affected, this could raise practice issues for our licensees.

The Washington State Medical Board, Board of Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery, Nursing Quality Assurance Commission, and Pharmacy Quality Assurance Commission have written these Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to clarify the how regulators in Washington will continue to deal with this issue, regardless of the US Supreme Court’s decision. .

What is the history of abortion laws in Washington State?

Washington became one of the first states to decriminalize abortion before Roe v. Wade in 1970 with the referendum 20. In 1991, Initiative 120 was successful. Initiative 120 ensures that “the state cannot deny or interfere with a pregnant person’s right to choose to have an abortion before the viability of the fetus, or to protect their 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 Washingtonians. He also clarified that health plans cannot limit abortion services and that if health coverage includes maternity care, it must also provide coverage allowing abortion.

The Uphold Washington’s Abortion Access Law, as of June 9, 2022, contributes to preserving a pregnant person’s access to abortion care. This legislation expands the list of providers legally authorized to terminate pregnancies and updates the wording of the 1991 Initiative 120 to include transgender, non-binary and gender-broad people among those eligible to receive abortion care. . It guarantees that Washington abortion care providers will be able to serve anyone who comes to Washington State seeking abortion services.

Will abortions remain legal in Washington State?


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

Additionally, state law clearly states that no one can interfere with a pregnant person’s right to choose an abortion before fetal viability or a medical professional’s right to perform an abortion. (RCW 9.02.110). For more on viability, see below.

Under current state law, state regulators cannot preclude, preclude, obstruct, or interfere with a healthcare professional, acting within their scope of practice, from providing an abortion that meets the state standard of care.

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

Washington law defines abortion as “any medical treatment intended to cause the termination of a pregnancy, except for the purpose of producing a live birth.” (RCW 9.02.170)

In Washington, abortions are legal up to the point of fetal viability or to protect the life or health of the pregnant person. (RCW 9.02.110) Viability is defined as “the point in pregnancy when there is a reasonable probability of sustained survival of the fetus outside the uterus without the application of extraordinary medical measures”.

Viability is determined by the judgment of a physician, PA, ARNP or other healthcare provider acting within the provider’s practice on the particular facts of the case. (RCW 9.02.170)

Additionally, Washington legally considers a practitioner’s good faith judgment a defense for violations of RCW 9.02. This means that if the viability or health of the pregnant woman is in question, providers acting in good faith are generally protected.

How do state regulators determine discipline and licensure if Roe vs. Wade is overturned?

The decision does not affect how health profession regulatory bodies operate in Washington State.

Washington regulators are complaints-based. Each complaint brought to a state health care regulator will be assessed on its own unique facts and circumstances, as is currently the practice.

The Uniform Disciplinary Act (UDA) sets standards of discipline, licensure and powers granted to health care regulators and the Secretary of Health. ADU section BRF 18.130.180 details what constitutes unprofessional conduct. Regulators of health professions use their discretion, both in licensing and discipline, to enforce these laws.

In Washington, performing an abortion by means found in RCW 9.02.170which does not harm the pregnant person and which precedes the viability of the fetus, does not amount to a violation of the UDA.

Generally, Washington does not discipline or deny licensure based solely on the status of licensure or discipline in another state.

Who can perform an abortion in Washington State?

A Physician (MD), Osteopathic Physician (DO), Physician Assistant (PA), Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner (ARNP), or other health care provider acting within the provider’s practice may perform an abortion as defined in RCW 9.02.170 in their field of practice. (EHB 1851, Chapter 65, Laws of 2022)

Additionally, Washington regulations require all hospitals with emergency rooms to provide emergency contraception as a treatment option to any woman seeking treatment following a sexual assault. (WAC 246-320-286)

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

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

Yes, a pharmacist can dispense hormonal, non-hormonal, or emergency contraceptives based on a valid prescription or medical record. As with all other prescribed medications, pharmacists must comply with all applicable laws and rules when dispensing hormonal, non-hormonal, or emergency contraceptives, including the requirement to ensure that a prescribed contraceptive is safe and appropriate for each patient (WAC 246-945-305(2).

Any complaints received by the Pharmacy Commission regarding the dispensing of hormonal, non-hormonal or emergency contraceptives by pharmacists will be investigated and assessed. The Pharmacy Board will assess each complaint on its facts and circumstances.

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

The following professional health care regulators recognize that while a U.S. Supreme Court decision could impact the rights of pregnant women nationwide, Washington state laws would not be changed by such a decision. For more information on how each committee deals with this issue, please click on the following links:

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