Washington Law Review

Comment

Washington's Reproductive Privacy Act: An Interpretation and Constitutional Analysis

June 30, 2015 | 90 Wash. L. Rev. 993

Abstract: In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court declared that the “zone of privacy” inherent in the liberty component of the Due Process Clauses protected a woman’s right to choose when to terminate her pregnancy. Nevertheless, in the years following Roe, the Court held that the right of choice did not include a right to state assistance in obtaining an abortion. After decisions such as Webster v. Reproductive Services and Maher v. Roe, the state may express its preference for childbirth by denying the use of its funds, facilities, and personnel for abortion. Although a majority of the Court held that such selective funding did not violate the Constitution, certain Justices argued the state’s funding decision would have a coercive impact on a woman’s choice. In response to the Court’s decisions, Washington enacted the Reproductive Privacy Act, which requires that if the State directly or indirectly provides maternity care, it must also provide substantially equivalent abortion care. The Act also prevents the State from discriminating against the fundamental right of choice. No court, however, has interpreted the Act. Accordingly, this Comment analyzes the Privacy Act and suggests an interpretive framework for courts when determining whether the State has complied with the Act’s requirements. In addition, this Comment explores the tension between the Privacy Act and religious healthcare providers that may object to abortion, ultimately arguing that this Comment’s interpretation of the Privacy Act passes strict scrutiny under Article 1, section 11 of the Washington Constitution.

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