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Democrats' Reproductive Parity Act dies in Legislature

A majority of the Senate was ready to vote for the bill, but a Republican committee chairwoman refused to allow a needed vote.
Sen. Randi Becker (upper left)

Sen. Randi Becker (upper left) John Stang

The Reproductive Parity Act died silently late Monday afternoon.

The bill, supported by Gov. Jay Inslee, would require health plans that cover maternity care to also cover abortions. Republicans in both chambers mostly oppose it. 

The Senate Health Care Committee had a routinely scheduled meeting Monday morning, which could have given the committee a chance to vote on whether to send the bill to the full Senate floor. There's a deadline Wednesday for bills to be voted out of committee.

Following a Monday morning public hearing on the House-originated bill, committee chairwoman Sen. Randi Becker, R-Eatonville, refused a request to hold a vote immediately and declined to say whether a committee vote on it would be held later in the day. Republican staff members said a press statement on the matter would be released later Monday. No press statement was released Monday.

Instead, a routine staff notice went out at 4:45 p.m. Monday saying that a scheduled Health Care Committee meeting was canceled.

A similar Senate bill introduced by Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, died weeks ago in Becker's committee without a hearing.  On Monday, Becker's committee held a two-hour public hearing on the House bill by Rep. Eileen Cody, D-Seattle.

Hobbs told Becker's committee  — five Republicans and four Democrats — that Cody's bill has at least 25 votes in the 49-member Senate, and has a letter with the 25 signatures to back that contention. "I feel pretty good if the bill reaches the floor, you'll have more than 25 votes," he said.

Becker is a staunch abortion opponent. She controls whether the bill comes up for a vote to leave her committee.

Ranking Democrat on her committee, Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent, said about Monday's public hearing: "My sense is that it was a show trial. ... It shows fairness, but does not attempt fairness."

During Monday's hearing, Keiser asked Becker to schedule a committee vote on the bill at the end of the meeting. Without comment, Becker did not do so.

Majority Coalition Caucus Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina, supports the bill. Even though he leads the 23-Republican-two-Democrat alliance controlling the Senate, Tom has consistently said he will not tell committee chairpersons what to do.

The House passed the bill 53-43 along mostly party lines. That chamber voted 96-0 to add a Republican amendment to allow insurance carriers to opt out of providing abortion coverage for reasons of conscience. But Republicans were unsuccessful in blocking a Democratic amendment — approved 54-42 — to order insurance companies to notify policy holders in writing that they won't fund abortions for reasons of conscience, and to provide information to those policy holders on how to obtain abortion coverage elsewhere.

Counting those who could not fit into the hearing room, more than 200 people were at Monday's hearing. Each side had religious leaders, doctors, poor people and women who had abortions. Forty-nine people testified, roughly half for and half against the bill.

The debate was largely framed around a few questions.

Is such a bill needed? All insurance carriers currently serving Washington provide coverage for abortions. But what if future carriers entering Washington decide to provide maternity-related insurance but not abortion coverage? Democrats are trying to make Washington the first state to have such an abortion-coverage guarantee. Meanwhile, 21 states allow carriers providing maternity insurance to ban abortion coverage, and efforts are underway in 10 other states to follow the lead of those 21.

Also, should pregnant women be denied abortion insurance coverage because they are poor? And should employers be forced to provide insurance coverage for abortions if they have religious objections to the procedure? 

"This is to ensure the choices (women) make are not controlled by what they can afford," Cody said.

"This is based on what's right for them, and not on their ability to pay for it," said Lonnie Johns-Brown of the League of Women Voters and the National Organization for Women, who had an abortion when she was young and poor following a failed marriage. Her then-employer's health plan covered the procedure, for which she is grateful.


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Comments:

Posted Tue, Apr 2, 7:43 a.m. Inappropriate

Well, start with a cutsie title that doesn't tell the truth.
From a group who wants to own their body (a good thing) but doesn't want to take responsibility for it (by paying, or buying insurance that covers, or working where such is provided).

Why not name it YOU pay for MY choices bill? That would be truth-telling. And additionally, there are currently NO health plans in WA that don't cover this, so what is the kerfluffle?

Geezer is not amused by any of the above, You can do what you want. I will support it even, but you pay, not me.

If you wanted real reproductive parity, you would work towards men being able to have an "abortion" by disavowing paternity. Your choice supported, just not with unwilling partner's money.

The Geezer has spaketh, and is ducking the tomatoes certainly to be flying his way.

Geezer

Posted Tue, Apr 2, 8:56 a.m. Inappropriate

It amazes me that one woman has this much power in our legislature. One abortion opponent keeps a bill from even getting a vote. This doesn't sound like "democracy at work" to me.

buddycats

Posted Tue, Apr 2, 9:42 a.m. Inappropriate

"But what if future carriers entering Washington decide to provide maternity-related insurance but not abortion coverage?"


Then the people who want abortion coverage won't buy it.

dbreneman

Posted Tue, Apr 2, 1:26 p.m. Inappropriate

What if - like most people in Washington - I have no control of which health insurance provider MY EMPLOYER chooses to go with? Then I'm stuck with some health benefits I don't want (maternity) but without those I do want (birth control and abortion) because of someone else's moral beliefs.

Posted Tue, Apr 2, 10:32 a.m. Inappropriate

"Tom has consistently said he will not tell committee chairpersons what to do." Senator Tom (R/D/? Hypocrite). Decisions have consequences. Hopefully, Tom's perfidy will result in his being turned out of public office.

louploup

Posted Tue, Apr 2, 6:08 p.m. Inappropriate

Thanks again Senator Tom, another bipartisan victory.

DannyK

Posted Tue, Apr 2, 11:49 p.m. Inappropriate

At the risk of dodging into geezer's tomatoes:

I'm proudly pro-choice and, from the mid-seventies through the nineties, voted only for state and federal candidates pledged to uphold Roe v. Wade.  The issue was that important to me and to many other women my age.  We were uncompromisingly sure that we, not the government, had the right to control our own bodies ...to make our own reproductive decisions.  So I understand the emotional appeal of the reproductive parity act.

From an individual woman's perspective, the act makes sense.  The community should give equal respect to any reproductive decision she makes so her insurance company should too.  But does the act make the same kind of sense for the community?

Maybe.  The community doesn't benefit much from reluctant parents.  Or unwanted babies.   But, when you pull the focus off the individual and put it on the culture, what does the reproductive parity act say about the value our community has for life?  For death?  Parity.  Hum.  Does the community really value the decision to take a developing life equally with the decision to give that developing life full expression?  If so, what does that say about us, about our culture, if life and death have parity?

And, if the giving or taking of a developing life is valued equally at life's beginning, is that the only stage of life for which this is true?   As a person entering life's medically expensive stage, I certainly hope so.

Now please hand me a garbage can lid to use as a shield and bring on those tomatoes.

Posted Wed, Apr 3, 11:01 a.m. Inappropriate

You have the choice of finding another job, purchasing additional insurance or paying cash. But you're talking about a hypothetical situation since all plans, according to the article, cover abortion. Anyway, unless someone is incredibly reckless with her life, an abortion is not something she's going to need on a regular basis. Most everyone is stuck with health benefits they don't need and would gladly swap for uncovered ones which they do, but that's just part of the law of averages upon which the concept of insurance is based. The fact that insurers provide abortion coverage of their own volition shows that it's a service for which there is a market.
[This message was intended as a reply to the entity styled as Stainless_Steel_Isnt. Somehow the system moved it down here.]
dbreneman

Posted Thu, Apr 4, 5:44 a.m. Inappropriate

I look forward to the State Democrats moving a bill to allow for adult consentual prostitution to be legal in Washington State. Afterall, it is a woman's and man's right to choose what to do with their own body...right? While they are at it, paid surragacy and the voluntary sale of organs should be allowed too. Why would State Democrats only support "choice" when it comes to abortion?

Cameron

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