Governor Christine Gregoire (D) of Washington State signed a bill on Thursday that will allow pregnant women to divorce their husbands. The bill, sponsored by state Representative Mary Lou Dickerson (D-Seattle) and passed unanimously by both the state House and Senate, was prompted by the case of Shawnna Hughes who was denied the right to divorce her physically abusive husband last November by Superior Court Judge Paul Bastine because she was pregnant. Bastine appallingly stated at the time that “it was the mother’s voluntary act of engaging in sexual relations that caused any delay in granting the divorce,” Women’s eNews reports.
Terri Sloyer, Hughes’ lawyer, said that the judge’s ruling “set very dangerous policies for women, particularly women in violent relationship. [It] basically hold[s] them hostage in relationships with abusers,” reports the Associated Press. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, murder is the number one killer of pregnant women.
The new law will add two sentences to state law, maintaining that pregnancy cannot be used as the sole basis for delaying or denying a divorce, and will take effect on July 23. Hughes’ husband is currently serving time in a Montana jail and is awaiting his trial for federal drug charges. Hughes gave birth to a baby girl last month, and is appealing Bastine’s ruling.