UW Women's Center
Hon. Monica Harrington
Monica Harrington is a newly-elected Public Hospital District Commissioner on San Juan Island in Washington State. The hotly contested election was named the top 2015 news story in the San Juan Islands because of fierce battles around patient rights and the intersection of religion and health care.
Harrington also serves as a board member at the Center for Reproductive Rights and the editor of a watchdog site that highlights issues of religious interference in health care. In 2012, she co-authored a Seattle Times op-ed drawing attention to the fact that 45% of Washington’s health care system – largely financed through public dollars – follows religious rules promulgated by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Prior to her work in health care advocacy, Monica was a technology executive and later a senior policy officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Monica’s interest in health care is rooted in her upbringing as the eighth child of Irish Catholic parents in Portland, Oregon. Her mother, pregnant ten times in 12 years, was quietly pro-choice because she knew women who died from botched back-alley abortions. Her oldest sister’s best friend died from breast cancer after the physicians at the Catholic hospital she entered refused to consider an abortion or even start chemotherapy because she was newly pregnant.
Harrington now focuses on protecting the rights of patients and physicians to make health care decisions unrestricted by any specific religious theology. She has worked alongside organizations like Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union, Legal Voice, Compassion & Choices, and the National Women’s Law Center to help ensure patients throughout Washington have access to health care consistent with medical best care standards.