Reproductive Health and Rights Groups Celebrate Senate Passage of the Protecting Pregnant Patients Act and Urge House to Take Action

News Release: 
Wednesday, February 17, 2021

OLYMPIA — Today, the Washington state Senate passed the Protecting Pregnant Patients Act, SSB 5140, a bill that would prevent hospitals from interfering with a qualified health care practitioner's ability to provide care to a patient experiencing pregnancy complications whose health or life is at risk. SSB 5140 now moves to the House of Representatives.

Sen. Patty Kuderer, D-Bellevue, prime sponsor of SSB 5140, had this reaction:

"No person suffering from pregnancy complications should ever have to wonder when they go to a hospital if they are going to receive appropriate medical care. I’m grateful the Senate took lifesaving action today to ensure that pregnant patients receive the best care possible when they go to the hospital."

Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, Chair of the Senate Health and Long Term Care Committee and a supporter of SSB 5140, had this reaction:

“For years, my husband and I tried to have a large family, but it was not to be. I experienced six miscarriages and one ectopic pregnancy. Each miscarriage required medical attention and care, and my ectopic pregnancy required emergency care.

I was overcome each time with grief, pain, anguish and shock. I know how difficult it can be to come to terms with such a loss, and how alone it can make you feel. The loss of a pregnancy is not widely discussed, even today, but it’s something you carry with you for the rest of your life.

Imagine facing these incredibly painful circumstances and then having everything compounded by an inability to obtain common, necessary medical care from your provider. I consider that unimaginable — and wholly unacceptable. That is why this bill is so important.”

The following organizations had this reaction:

"We are thrilled that the Senate passed SSB 5140 today, moving the bill one step closer to becoming law in Washington state. This bill will provide critical protections for pregnant patients in Washington at a time when some hospitals are delaying or denying care to patients experiencing pregnancy complications, even when the patient’s life may be at risk.

For decades, patients experiencing miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies have had their treatment delayed or denied due to hospital policies that are not grounded in evidence-based medicine. These policies, which prohibit pregnancy terminations except in very limited circumstances, are discriminatory, create unjust barriers to care, serve no medical purpose, and place the health and lives of pregnant patients at risk. For patients who are miscarrying, and especially for those living in rural areas with only one health care facility available to them, these prohibitions can be insurmountable and life-threatening. 

This bill puts patient safety first by allowing health care providers to use their professional judgment when caring for patients. It ensures that doctors, nurses, and other care providers can provide medically necessary care to their patients rather than being restricted by hospital policies that serve no medical purpose."

ACLU of Washington
Cedar River Clinics
Community Health Care
If/When/How: Lawyering for Reproductive Justice
Legal Voice
NARAL Pro-Choice Washington
Northwest Abortion Access Fund
Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawai’i
Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho

To read about pregnant patients in Washington whose care was delayed or denied due to hospital policies, please see A Right to Care, a new report from the ACLU of Washington.

To hear stories directly from patients and providers that highlight the urgent need for this legislation, watch the Jan. 20 hearing on SSB 5140 in the Senate Health and Long Term Care Committee.