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Senate bill proposes allowing doctors to keep names off prescription bottles

by By Mary Murphy/Washington State Journal/WNPA
| January 30, 2024 6:08 PM

OLYMPIA — When she treated an out-of-state patient from Idaho with pulmonary hypertension. Dr. Jennifer Chin of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists knew her pregnant patient was at risk if she carried the pregnancy to term. She believes her patient could have died without the care she received in Washington. 

Increasingly, Chin said, she sees doctors becoming hesitant to give abortion care because of the threat it poses to their safety. 

To protect doctors, SB 5960 was introduced in the state Legislature. It allows medical professionals the option of removing their names from prescription bottles. Instead, they could use their National Practitioner Identification number or the health care facility name. 

“Washington providers should not live in fear of having their name on prescription bottles dug out of trash cans, shared by anti-choice groups or being targeted by abusive partners or hostile family members,” Dr. Erin Berry of Planned Parenthood said. 

Since 1977, there have been 11 murders, 42 bombings, 200 arsons, and 531 assaults targeting abortion providers, according to the National Abortion Federation. 

Berry added the danger is only increasing, especially for states like Washington which act as safe havens for women seeking abortions or other family planning assistance. 

“Medical providers are just trying to do their jobs,” prime sponsor of SB 5960 Sen. Noel Frame, D-Seattle, said. “[In places like] Idaho with their restrictive abortion laws, so many OBGYNs are quitting to the point that they're closing down maternity wards. This was, to me, a small thing that we can do to provide just that one additional layer of protection for them.”

The bill has support from the Washington State Pharmacy Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and Planned Parenthood. 

Few people have opposed the bill, but Mary Long, from Conservative Ladies of Washington, an organization generally opposed to abortions and pressing for equal consideration of anti-abortion views, said labels without names might stop patients from getting in touch with doctors.

Doctors at the hearing said that should not be a worry. Numbers on the bottles are easily trackable and the facility’s name will appear on the label. 

The Washington State Journal is a non-profit news website funded by the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation. Learn more at wastatejournal.org.