State Laws Related to Sexual and Reproductive Health

Access to Contraceptives Prescribed by Pharmacists

Washington law allows pharmacists to prescribe contraceptive pills, patches, and rings through agreements with authorized prescribers. (RCW 18.64.011 and WAC 246-863.110)

Not all pharmacists choose to participate.

Access to Emergency Contraception after Sexual Assault

Washington law (RCW 70.41.350) and the rules to enact it (WAC 246-320-286) require all hospitals with emergency rooms to provide emergency contraception as a treatment option to anyone who seeks treatment as a result of a sexual assault.

Access to Reproductive Health Services at Hospitals

Washington law requires state, county, city and town governments and municipal and quasi-municipal corporations to provide benefits, services, and information on abortion that are substantially equivalent to the benefits, services, and information it provides related to maternity care. Municipal corporations include hospitals operated by public hospital districts. (RCW 9.02.160 and RCW 9.02.170)

RCW 70.41.520 requires every hospital in the state to send Department of Health:

  • The hospital's policies regarding reproductive health care
  • A form showing which reproductive health care services are and are not available at the hospital

This information is available on the department's Hospital Policies webpage and summarized in Reproductive Services Provided at Washington State Hospitals (Excel).

Age People Can Consent to Their Own Care

People of any age can consent to or refuse:

  • Birth control services: RCW 9.02.100
  • Abortion and abortion-related services: RCW 9.02.100, State v. Koome, 84 Wn.2nd 901 (1975)
  • Prenatal care: State v. Koome, 84 Wn.2nd 901 (1975)

People 13 and older can consent to

People 14 and over can consent to tests and treatment for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) (RCW 70.24.110)

Consent for Sex

Washington law (Chapter 9A.44 RCW) explains sexual offenses and describes situations where it is not legal to have sexual contact. These situations include coercion or compulsion; mental incapacity or physical helplessness; and differences in age or authority. Also see WAC 246-16-100 for information about health care professionals sexual misconduct rules.

To better understand consent, watch the educational videos Consent for Kids and Tea Consent by Blue Seat Studio.

Age and consent

Sections of Chapter 9A.44 RCW describe when a person having sex or sexual contact can be prosecuted based on the ages of the people involved. Age is just one of many factors involved in consent.

Washington State will not prosecute you based on age if you have sex with:

Health Insurance Benefits Required by Washington State

Washington law requires all state-regulated health plans to cover:

  • Each type of FDA approved contraceptive methods, including emergency contraceptives and methods that do not require a prescription, at no cost to the covered person and without restrictions or delays that limit a person's choice of method. (RCW 48.43.072 and WAC 284-43-5150)
  • 12-month refill of contraceptive drugs (RCW 48.43.195)
  • Voluntary sterilizations (RCW 48.43.072)
  • Abortion services that are substantially equivalent to their maternity services coverage. This coverage may not limit a person's access to these services in any way. (RCW 48.43.073)

Washington law requires individual health benefit exchange plans to cover maternity services. (RCW 48.43.041), which means these plans must also cover abortion services. (RCW 48.43.073). Individual health benefit plans are those purchased through the Washington Health Benefit Exchange (WAHealthPlanFinder).

Protecting Privacy

RCW 48.43.505 provides automatic extra privacy protection for sensitive services. It defines sensitive services as those related to reproductive health (including abortion), sexually transmitted diseases, substance use disorder, gender dysphoria, gender affirming care, domestic violence, and mental health. It also creates a mechanism for people to request the same protection for other health services.

This law requires state-regulated health insurance plans to direct all communications for sensitive services to the email or physical address specified by the client receiving the service. These health plans may not disclose information, even to the policyholder, without the express consent of the client.

To receive this protection, you need to let your insurance company know how to communicate with you. You can print, complete, sign, and send this Confidentiality Request Form (pdf) to your health insurance company. You can also call your insurance company to request confidentiality. (See the Office of the Insurance Commissioner webpage for more information.)

Reproductive Decisions

Washington law (RCW 9.02.100) states that every individual has the fundamental right to:

  • Choose or refuse birth control
  • Choose or refuse to have an abortion

Also see Age People Can Consent to Their Own Care.