UW Medicine responds to high court decision on abortion
The healthcare system reaffirms its support for access to abortion care. A Q&A addresses potential impacts of the court decision.
Today’s Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey will have significant impacts nationally on healthcare justice, affecting the health, financial stability and opportunity for many people across the country. These impacts will fall disproportionately on women, people of color, and those who are unable to travel out-of-state for their medical care. In the wake of this decision, UW Medicine leadership reaffirms our support for access to abortion care as part of a full continuum of reproductive healthcare services.
We will continue our current practice of broad access to abortion for our patients, where permissible, and seek to minimize any impact this change will have on our teaching programs and the provision of abortion care for our clinicians, faculty and staff.
The Court’s decision does not affect abortion services provided in Washington, which are protected under state law. However, we recognize that there may be implications for UW faculty, clinicians, residents and students in the WWAMI region outside of Washington, as well as patients from states who may seek care in Washington because of this decision.
UW Medicine has convened a team including clinicians, faculty and attorneys to review the Supreme Court decision and provide guidance to ensure that all faculty, clinicians, residents, students and staff are aware of implications for the practice and teaching of reproductive care within Washington as well as the other WWAMI states. Additional information will be shared as it becomes available. In the meantime, we affirm the following:
An individual’s right to an abortion:
- We will continue to support the principle that everyone should have full access to the healthcare services they need, including reproductive care. We also believe that all medical decisions, including the decision to have an abortion, should be a decision made by a pregnant individual with the support of their clinician.
- Patients in Washington will continue to be able to access abortion services. However, we recognize there will be impacts to patients in many other states. Changes to laws in these states may have implications for UW Medicine clinicians traveling to care for patients who live in other states or providing care through telemedicine. We also recognize there could be an increase in non-resident patients seeking reproductive care in Washington. We will be developing information to guide our UW Medicine clinician community as we navigate abortion restrictions imposed in other states.
Our students, residents, and fellow trainees will continue to learn about all aspects of reproductive healthcare:
- As an integrated clinical, research and learning health system, UW Medicine is committed to training the next generation of healthcare professionals, and we believe that our medical students, residents and fellow trainees must learn about all aspects of reproductive healthcare, including family planning, contraception and abortion, to care for patients effectively and responsibly.
- The Supreme Court’s decision will not affect the School of Medicine’s curriculum. Our medical students learn about abortion in a classroom setting. Medical students are not required to participate in abortion care; however, those who request clinical exposure to abortion will continue to be able to receive this training in Washington, as they do today.
- Currently, there are regional variations in what students are taught during their clerkships, depending on the clerkship site and where they are located in the WWAMI region. For example, Catholic institutions in all states do not teach abortion care. Some OB-GYN and Family Medicine clerkship sites in states where abortion care was available will no longer offer abortion care to patients, and those educational opportunities may no longer exist. We do not anticipate any curriculum changes for residents in our Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology or for our Complex Family Planning fellows, as these programs currently train exclusively within Washington.
- We do not yet know how the Court’s decision may impact Family Medicine residents in the other WWAMI states of Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho. While Idaho and Wyoming have laws limiting abortion access that became effective when Roe v. Wade was overturned, we will need to see how the leaders in those states enforce their laws. Each state will have its own authority to limit, restrict or preserve abortion access, and we will be watching to be sure that we understand how any changes in the law will impact our teaching and clinical care activities, particularly in the WWAMI region. UW Medicine’s leadership remains committed to providing teaching, training and access to reproductive healthcare to the full extent permitted by law and will provide additional information as it becomes available.
Q&A on court decision and its potential impact
What is UW Medicine’s position on abortion services?
UW Medicine’s mission is to improve the health of the public. As a part of this mission, we have always supported — and continue to support — the principle that everyone should have full access to the healthcare services they need, including reproductive medicine. We also believe that all medical decisions, including the decision to have an abortion, should be a decision made by a pregnant individual with the support of their clinician. As a learning organization committed to training the next generation of clinicians, we believe that our resident and fellow trainees should have experience in all aspects of reproductive health, including family planning, contraception, and abortion.
Is it true that the US Supreme Court has decided to overturn Roe vs. Wade?
Yes. The Supreme Court of the United States just issued its opinion in the case of Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which has overturned decades of precedent recognizing a constitutional right to privacy protecting abortion care from state and federal regulation under most circumstances.
Prior to the recent Supreme Court decision, what was the state of U.S. law regarding access to abortions?
Prior to this decision, U.S. Supreme Court precedent — based primarily on the cases Roe vs. Wade, Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, and Doe vs. Bolton — prohibited states from banning abortions prior to the viability of a living fetus. For simplicity, we refer to this line of precedent as Roe vs. Wade.
Does the Supreme Court opinion in Dobbs affect Washington’s laws protecting abortion rights?
No. Washington law protects a pregnant individual’s right to an abortion in Washington, and the issues decided in Dobbs do not change that.
Does the Supreme Court opinion in Dobbs affect how UW Medicine provides abortion care to residents of other states?
We are working with a team of attorneys from the state Attorney General’s Office to understand the full impact of the Dobbs decision on abortion rights and access to abortion care for individuals in other states, including how states begin to implement laws that restrict abortion access. We will update this FAQ as we know more.
Do any states in the WWAMI region have laws that prohibit abortion prior to viability that become effective now that Roe is overturned?
Yes. Both Idaho and Wyoming have restrictive abortion laws that go into effect now that Roe is overturned. We are working to analyze what impacts that may have on our educational and clinical activities in those two states.
Is there anything you can tell us now about providing abortion care in other states now that Roe is overturned?
We are working with our clinicians who work in other states, either in person or through telemedicine, to ensure UW programs comply with the laws of those states.
Can a faculty member or UW clinician perform an abortion in a state that declares it illegal?
No. Even if licensed in a state that permits abortion, faculty and UW employees must abide by the laws in the state in which care to the patient is provided.
Can a faculty member or UW clinician perform an abortion procedure for a patient located in Washington even if Washington is not their permanent residence?
Generally, yes. While it is possible that some states may, in the future, attempt to reach across state borders to prohibit abortion for their residents, we are not aware of any states that do so currently.
Can a faculty member or UW clinician dispense an abortion inducing medication across state lines to a patient in a state that makes abortion illegal?
No. If a state prohibits abortion by medication, faculty and UW employees must abide by the laws of that state when treating a patient who is physically present in that state.
Can a faculty member or UW clinician dispense an abortion inducing medication to a patient located in Washington who came to Washington to receive abortion services?
Generally, yes. Washington does not have a law that restricts abortion to patients who reside in Washington. A patient presenting in Washington for services may be treated in Washington, consistent with the laws of Washington. Faculty should advise patients that the abortion inducing medication should only be used in Washington. Faculty must dispense abortion-inducing medication in Washington and only issue the prescriptions to pharmacies located in Washington.
Are there implications for our medical students now that Roe is overturned?
We do not expect any immediate implications for our ability to teach abortion in a classroom setting. It is required by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education that medical students learn about abortion. We will continue to teach all second-year UW medical students about abortion in the classroom setting in all WWAMI states, as we do today. Third and fourth-year medical students can gain practical experience through observing or assisting an abortion as part of an OB-GYN or Family Medicine clerkship if they desire to do so. There have been variations in what students are taught during their clerkships depending on where the student is in the WWAMI region, and the clerkship site. For example, Catholic institutions in all states do not teach abortion care. All OB-GYN and Family Medicine clerkship sites in states where abortion care is now illegal will no longer offer abortion care to patients, and that educational opportunity will no longer exist. However, medical students will continue to have access to this educational opportunity in states where it remains legal, including Washington.
Are there implications for UW Medicine residencies and fellowships now that Roe is overturned?
Currently, all UW Medicine-sponsored residencies and fellowships where abortion is taught occur in Washington (this includes OB-GYN and Family Medicine residencies and family planning/reproductive health fellowships). The Supreme Court decision does not have any immediate implications for these residents and fellows.
Are there implications for the Family Medicine Residency Network (FMRN) now that Roe is overturned?
Yes. There will be impacts to FMRN residents in Idaho and Wyoming, and there may be impacts in other states if they take steps to restrict abortion services in their laws. The FMRN is a network of family medicine residency programs throughout the WWAMI region sponsored by healthcare institutions other than UW Medicine. FMRN faculty have appointments in the UW School of Medicine Department of Family Medicine, which provides support to FMRN faculty such as learning collaboration, residency program consultations, faculty development, administrative support and regional marketing. Abortion care is taught in some FMRN family medicine residency programs, where allowed by state law and the supporting hospital system.