Debates over abortion aren’t really news these days. It’s one of those debates that never really goes away.

However, the debate is changing.

In Port Townsend, Washington, the debate is around whether the hospital that serves that community can be compelled to perform abortions.

In February, the Seattle office of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sent a letter to Jefferson Healthcare claiming that the East Jefferson County Hospital is out of compliance with the state Reproductive Privacy Act by not offering to abortions on the premises.

That same month, the ACLU sued Skagit Regional Health claiming that the hospital violated law by referring those seeking an abortion to the local Planned Parenthood affiliate rather than provide the abortions themselves.

These lawsuits and threats rely upon a 2013 opinion from Attorney General Bob Ferguson regarding the Reproductive Privacy Act, passed by voters in 1991. That Reproductive Privacy Act states that there is a “fundamental right to choose or refuse” birth control or abortion and prohibits the state from discriminating through “regulation or provision of benefits, facilities, services or information.”

While no other Attorney General or judge has taken this position in 22 years, Mr. Ferguson declared that it is now illegal for a public hospital not to provide abortions.

There are many reasons rural hospitals might not provide abortions (or other services) that have nothing do with philosophical opposition to abortion.

Rural hospitals don’t have the same resources as urban hospitals.

There are undoubtedly many services East Jefferson County Hospital doesn’t provide and that isn’t because they hate people who need heart surgery or have Ebola.

It is common for one provider to refer patients to another provider to ensure they are cared for by the person best equipped to handle their situation.

Women will not be better served by forcing people to provide a service when they had previously decided someone else was in a better position to do so.

Those of us who have spent significant amounts of time in rural communities have all had the experience of having to travel out of the area for particularized care. It’s one of the trade-offs for not having to sit in traffic for two hours every day.

Only abortion industry advocates consider that to be a legal problem.

Still, this case illustrates how the abortion debate in Washington has changed.

Even before Roe v. Wade, Washington State has made abortion available to women at taxpayer’s expense. The abortion industry gives Washington State an A+ rating.

Washington is an abortionist’s paradise.

But they still aren’t content.

The new frontier in abortion advocacy is forcing other people to be part of their “private” decision to have an abortion.

As a result, now you can get sued for helping a woman find someone who will provide an abortion because that’s just not enough.

You should have done it yourself.

For four years in a row, the Washington State House of Representatives has passed legislation that would require every private insurance policy to cover abortion.

The State of Washington has been trying to force pharmacists in Olympia to sell Plan B, a drug they object to because they believe it causes an early term abortion, since 2007.

The harassment of a rural hospital is just the latest front in their war against choice.

It’s the new debate that doesn’t focus on whether abortion should be legal, but focuses on whether you should be free to make decisions based on the fact that you have a different view.

If you live in Jefferson County, you can contact the commissioners of the Jefferson County Public Hospital District here:

Jill Buhler
jbuhler@jeffersonhealthcare.org
Tony DeLeo adeleo@jeffersonhealthcare.org
Mmarie Dressler, RN mdressler@jeffersonhealthcare.org
Matt Ready mready@jeffersonhealthcare.org
Chuck Russell crussell@jeffersonhealthcare.org

The ACLU has also sent letters to the Whidbey General Hospital in Coupeville and Mason General Hospital in Shelton. If you live in those areas, contact your local hospital boards as well.

Feel free to call Bob Ferguson at 360-753-6200 and share your thoughts.

Be cheerful, but be heard.