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Washington abortion services bracing for surge in patients

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Abortion providers in Washington are bracing for a surge of patients from out of state. That follows the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning decades long protections. At the same time, Northwest companies are adjusting their benefits to accommodate employees who may need abortion services.

Courtney Normand heads the Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates.

“We definitely are getting inquiries not only from people in Washington who need reassurance and clarity about what their rights are, but also from folks who think they may need to come here," Normand said.

Washington law protects abortion rights. But in neighboring Idaho, a trigger law banning abortion takes effect next month. Normand says Planned Parenthood is changing operations and logistics to handle the influx of out-of-state patients.

“We’re also doing things like moving as much family planning care online as much as we can in order to make more space for abortion care in our schedule," Normand said.

King County has also responded with $1 million emergency fund. Half will go toward the county's public health system. The other half to the Northwest Abortion Access Fund, which helps secure abortion services in the Pacific Northwest.

Meanwhile, some major Seattle-area companies will offer assistance to employees in areas where abortion services aren’t available.

Amazon, Microsoft and Starbucks will help with expenses for workers who must travel great distances to access abortions. Reuters reports that Amazon will give $4,000 in yearly travel expenses. And Microsoft will add travel expenses to its abortion benefits. Starbucks says it will reimburse employees who need to travel more than 100 miles to obtain care.

The Northwest companies join a list of corporations offering similar travel benefits, including Disney, Lyft, Tesla, Netflix, Kroger, and JP Morgan Chase.

Washington is not the only region expecting to see more patients. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is indicating that his country will continue to allow Americans to get abortions in Canada.

Trudeau says that the U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn a constitutional right to abortion could lead to the loss of other rights. He's echoed concerns that the ruling could someday allow a rollback of legal protections for gay relationships.

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