The state Capitol in Olympia Credit: jodastephen (Stephen Colebourne)/Flickr (CC)
Only two teenage girls testified Wednesday about a bill affecting pregnant teenage girls. Janet Kruschke, 16, and Mary Hoppes 17, drove to Olympia from Tri-City Prep, a religious high school in Pasco, to throw their support behind a bill that would require parents to be notified if their teen daughter seeks an abortion.
"It makes no sense that I could get an abortion, a medical process, when I need my parents' permission to get my ears pierced," Hoppes said.
The hearing dealt specifically with SB 5156, a bill by Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, that would require a parent be notified 48 hours prior to a girl younger than 18 receiving an abortion. Under the bill, a teen girl could circumvent the requirement by getting a court waiver.
"This is a parental rights bill. This bill is not trying to stop abortions. … It's a common sense right that every parent expects," Benton said. He added that 39 other states already have similar laws.
However, the bill faces huge hurdles. Assuming the 24-member Democratic Senate minority bloc remains intact against the bill, Sen.Rodney Tom, D-Medina, and leader of the 23-Republican-two-Democrat majority alliance also opposes it. That would likely give opponents a 25-vote majority. But Tom added: " Lets have debate. I think that debate is good."
Gov.Jay Inslee — who could veto the bill — also opposes it,citing privacy concerns for teen girls. "The notification bill goes back to ideological debates [already hashed out] in the state of Washington," Inslee said. Meanwhile, the bill won't likely survive a Democrat-controlled House if it gets through the Senate
Twenty-seven of the roughly 100 people at the hearing voted for Benton's bill and 19 against (all women). Of those who testified, a few pro-choice women supported the bill. Mothers were on both sides as were women who had had abortions. Testimony by doctors was split.
The bill's supporters focused on parents needing to know about their daughters facing wrenching, emotional decisions. "Who better to help a young teen than their parents?" asked Dorothy Redmann of Richland.
"The current law assumes that parents are a danger to a child in time of crisis," argued Joseph Backholm, director of the Family Institute of Washington. "That is an unreasonable public policy."
Opponents, for their part, contended that many of these same parents are among the last people a pregnant teen should have to face in a time of emotional crisis. Pregnant teens are not guaranteed supportive families, and incest complicates some situations.
"Forcing teens into having conversations they're unable to have or don't want to jeopardizes their safety," argued Jennifer Segadelli, a Seattle attorney.
"The person I feared the most was my mother," testified Lisa Davidson of Seattle.
Dr. Sarah Prager of Seattle agreed. "The younger the patient is, the more likely she is to involve a parent. Unfortunately, not all adolescents have mature and loving parents." Prager shared her experience with one pregnant teen who had an abortion."Her mother called her a baby killer and she attempted suicide."