After Majority Coalition Caucus leader Rodney Tom (D-48) promised at a press briefing yesterday that he would make sure that the Reproductive Parity Act gets a hearing in the senate, state Sens. Steve Hobbs (D-44) and Steve Litzow (R-41) reintroduced the bill today, hoping to have it heard in his own Financial Institutions, Housing, and Insurance Committee.
The RPA, which would require insurers that cover maternity care to also cover abortions, has been thwarted twice in the senate—first in anti-choice Sen. Randi Becker's (R-2) health care committee, where it failed to get a hearing, then in anti-choice Sen. Mike Padden's (R-4) law and justice committee, where Padden initially scheduled the bill for a hearing but then took it off the agenda.
(His committee did consider a bill from the other side of the debate, a parental notification bill which would require women and girls under 18 to tell a parent before getting an abortion; Padden is a co-sponsor of that bill).
Now Hobbs' own committee, which (unlike most senate committees, whose chairs were selected by the MCC) has a Democratic majority, will hear his legislation. Besides Hobbs, the Democrats on the committee are Mark Mullet (D-5), Brian Hatfield (D-19), and Sharon Nelson (D-36); all three are considered pro-choice by NARAL Pro-Choice Washington.
In a (slightly cutting) statement, Hobbs said, "Senator Tom gave me his word that the Reproductive Parity Act would receive a hearing. ...If Senator Tom can't find a committee chair to hear the RPA, I gladly offer up my committee, Financial Institutions, Housing and Insurance, to help Senator Tom around the problem of his caucus."
Hobbs' move looks pretty smart in retrospect, given that without the committee chairmanship, Hobbs' bill probably wouldn't have even gotten a hearing.
Hobbs was one of just three Democrats to agree to Tom's offer to chair committees; most party members refused chairmanships on the grounds that they legitimized the MCC's claim to be "bipartisan." At the time, Hobbs said, "if we're going to be in the minority, why not be a minority in a position of strength by taking some chairmanships?"
The move does look pretty smart in retrospect, given that without the committee chairmanship, Hobbs' bill probably wouldn't have even gotten a hearing.
If Washington state does ultimately pass the RPA (the Republican-dominated senate, obviously, puts that outcome in doubt), it will be going against the national political grain: According to the ACLU, 21 states have passed laws to restrict insurance companies from paying for abortions. In eight states, no one can get insurance that covers the procedure; another 13 bar federal and state employees and those who buy in to the new insurance exchanges from getting an insurance plan that covers abortion.