At the Republicans’ January 16 press conference responding to Governor Jay Inslee’s inauguration speech, House Republican Leader Richard DeBolt (R-20) criticized Inslee for urging passage of the Reproductive Parity Act, stating, “I don’t like special-interest politics being brought up in the State of the State address.”

Yet what better place than a statewide address to honor women’s rights?

Following the session’s second week, in which Majority Coalition Caucus Leader Rodney Tom’s (D-48) Senate took after injured workers' rights with the zeal of baying bloodhounds, the RPA is one of two dueling abortion-related bills before the legislature. It would require any health plan that covers maternity care or services to provide substantially equivalent coverage for pregnancy termination; the act would apply after January 1, 2014, when the federal Affordable Care Act goes into full effect.

This would not change the status quo in Washington state, where insurers generally provide such parity. However, it would prevent Washington from following other states that have used the Affordable Care Act’s regrettable compromises on abortion to restrict private insurance from providing abortion coverage. The bill has been introduced in both the House and Senate. 

A quite different bill introduced in the Senate would require girls younger than 18 to notify their parents that they are seeking an abortion.  Such measures are generally intended to deter abortions under the rationale, as the bill puts it, of “protecting minors against their own immaturity.”

Yet how the legislation will protect a girl from her own immaturity after she has already made the (mature) decision to have sex resulting in conception in the first place remains a paradox—as does the notion that a teenage girl lacks the “maturity” to have an abortion but is mature enough to raise a child. The bill makes its goal of higher teen pregnancy fairly explicit, concluding that notification would have the effect of “[r]educing . . . abortion.”  In other words, the bill would increase the number of children having children.

The bill would allow a pregnant girl to seek a judicial waiver from parental notification if she was the victim of sexual abuse by a parent or legal guardian, although the sexual abuse waiver only applies if a girl was impregnated by a parent or legal guardian.

If the bill passes, the state Department of Health would find itself in the strange bureaucratic role of tabulating the number of abortions among minors and sharing that information with the public. The bill only allows “physicians” to notify parents of abortions, implicitly taking away the right of advanced registered nurse practitioners to perform abortions.

With the same ardor he once used to assure voters that he was a Democrat, former Republican Tom insists he’s “100 percent” pro-choice.  Yet actions speak louder than words.

All of this would occur despite a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showing that 70 percent of Americans support the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Roe vs. Wade decision legalizing abortion.

So which bill will move forward?  With the same ardor he once used to assure voters that he was a Democrat, former Republican Tom insists he’s “100 percent” pro-choice.  Yet actions speak louder than words. Tom hasn’t signed on to the Reproductive Parity Act, although he has freely signed on to anti-labor bills and loudly voiced his intent to defund state programs designed to make college affordable. And last year, Tom went against his party on a procedural vote to bring the RPA to a vote on the senate floor.  

Further, because the parental notification bill was referred to a Senate Law and Justice Committee chaired, thanks to Tom, by one of its conservative co-sponsors, Republican Mike Padden (R-4), it has every chance of making it to the Senate floor. The RPA, meanwhile, can already be considered dead, given the anti-choice committee chairs Tom installed during the coup.

Beyond policy, there is funding. Tom installed Michael Baumgartner (R-6), a Spokane Republican, as vice chairman of Senate Ways and Means. Baumgartner opposes abortion even in instances of rape or incest, and was part of a failed Republican effort to cut $6 million from family planning last year.  In Tom’s 48th District, Baumgartner received 21,819 votes to U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell’s 39,806.  What was it about this result that Tom believed gives Baumgartner a mandate to impose his views on 48th District women?

Women who support reproductive rights have nothing to hope for from Rodney Tom’s Senate and plenty to fear.  In a pro-choice state, they should expect better.

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