We must preserve women’s rights to health care | Editorial

We applaud the state Attorney General’s recent opinion regarding women’s health services.

On Aug. 21, he issued a legal opinion affirming that any public hospital district already providing reproductive services must also give access to contraceptives and abortion, regardless of religious affiliation.

Washington state women who are served by the more than 50 public hospital districts in the state will continue to have the assurance they can exercise their legal reproductive rights.

This reinforces what voters supported in 1991 when they approved Initiative 120: when the state provides benefits, services and information to women intending to carry a pregnancy to term, the state also must provide substantially equivalent benefits, services and information to those women who choose to terminate a pregnancy.

So why did the attorney general issue this opinion now? State Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas, requested the statement after hearing community members’ concerns regarding San Juan’s new Peace Island Medical Center, which is affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church.

Similar concerns are now being raised on Orcas, after Island Hospital, which leases and operates Orcas Medical Center, announced it could be partnering with PeaceHealth.

Island Hospital, Skagit Valley Hospital and Cascade Valley Hospital, which are all operated by publicly supported hospital districts, are jointly exploring affiliation possibilities with four larger hospital systems, including PeaceHealth, Virginia Mason and University of Washington Medical Centers.

While the attorney general’s opinion is not legally binding, it carries weight in the court and may help settle public unease about the Roman Catholic Church overseeing health care.

As Senator Ranker aptly put it, “We are all proud of our state’s history of respecting an individual’s right to access the health care services that are most appropriate for them and their families. This opinion reaffirms that right.”

We couldn’t agree more.