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Topic: abortion

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October 3, 2014 at 6:05 AM

Washington lawmakers don’t need to use Hobby Lobby ruling to drum up votes

Months after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down the controversial “Hobby Lobby” ruling allowing privately held corporations to deny payment for certain types of birth control for female employees, Washington lawmakers are finding ways to fight back. This is to be expected. Washington is one of the most progressive states on protecting reproductive rights. Just weeks before election day, some Democrats are using this issue as a strategy to put them back in control of the state Senate, led by the Republican-dominated Majority Coalition Caucus since 2012.

Voters should look deeper before they take the bait.

Gov. Jay Inslee speaks at a press conference on Thursday, Oct. 2 at Bitter Lake Community Center, two blocks from a new Hobby Lobby store scheduled to open on Friday. Standing behind him, from left to right, are Democratic state Sens. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Karen Keiser, Kevin Ranker, and David Frockt.

Gov. Jay Inslee speaks at a press conference on Thursday, Oct. 2 at Bitter Lake Community Center, two blocks from a new Hobby Lobby store scheduled to open on Friday. Standing behind him, from left to right, are Democratic state Sens. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Karen Keiser, Kevin Ranker, and David Frockt. (Credit: Thanh Tan / The Seattle Times).

On Thursday, a group of Democratic lawmakers announced they are planning to file legislation — a “work-around” — next session to ensure employers do not deny women the full range of birth control options available to them through the Affordable Care Act. Joined by Gov. Jay Inslee, state Sens. David Frockt, Kevin Ranker, Jeanne Kohl-Welles and Karen Keiser said they are drafting a bill that would likely use the state’s anti-discrimination and Human Rights Commission rules.

The press event was staged at a community center two blocks from a Hobby Lobby store scheduled to open Friday in Seattle at 13200 Aurora Avenue North. Good to know they are doing their homework, but this was clearly also a bid to secure the women’s vote ahead of the November general election.

In a press release distributed to reporters, the Democrats warned their efforts to fight the Hobby Lobby decision might be hindered if they do not take back the majority in the upper chamber. In particular, they targeted Republican Sens. Andy Hill, Steve O’Ban and Democrat-turned-Republican candidate Mark Miloscia. If “elected or re-elected this year, it is unlikely that any progress on ensuring individual reproductive choices will be achieved,” they warned.

Again, voters should be skeptical. There’s no bill in place yet to be opposed, or supported, by members of either party.

Washington State has long supported a woman’s right to privacy and access when it comes to reproductive health care, including abortion care. Even before Roe v. Wade became the law of the land in 1972, this HistoryLink story explains how Washington voters passed Referendum 20 in 1970 legalizing abortion in the early months of pregnancy. In 1991, voters passed Initiative 120, which guarantees that every “individual has the fundamental right to choose or refuse birth control” and abortion (with few exceptions) and the “state shall not discriminate against the exercise of these rights in the regulation or provision of benefits, facilities, services, or information.”

If this were Texas, where I used to report on women’s health politics from AustinI’d say go all out. Fight the good fight. But it’s Washington, the friendliest state in the nation when it comes to reproductive freedom and lack of barriers to birth control and abortion. NARAL Pro-Choice America gives the state an A+ grade for choice-related laws. We don’t have lawmakers demanding transvaginal ultrasounds, slashing family planning funds or passing policies to force abortion clinic closures. Vigilance is appreciated, but state legislators’ priority during the next session must be to tackle the other urgent task of preserving the state’s fragile social safety net and funding public education.

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Comments | Topics: abortion, birth control, hobby lobby

January 27, 2014 at 6:06 AM

Huckabee’s lame attempt to incite women voters

Another week, another Republican attempt to appease women gone wrong. The political snafus keep coming after Democratic President Barack Obama won a majority of the female vote in 2012. (See this Gallup pre-election poll.)

Last Thursday, former preacher-turned-governor-turned-media personality Mike Huckabee fit the words “Uncle Sugar,” “birth control” and “libido” into a statement about women. Well, there’s a pretty good way to get attention before yet another potential run for president in 2016.

Here’s text of the controversial part of Gov. Mike Huckabee’s speech last week before a Republican National Committee audience, courtesy of Yahoo News’ Chris Moody. Watch the clip in this YouTube video:

Enough of your nonsense, Mike Huckabee.

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Comments | Topics: abortion, birth control, mike huckabee

June 27, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Washingtonians should stand with Wendy Davis, protect abortion rights

Washington is not Texas. Thankfully, lawmakers here are not pursuing misguided regulations to curb reproductive rights for women. But I still think the massive response to Tuesday’s nearly 12-hour filibuster in the Texas Senate by Wendy Davis demonstrates why we cannot take the right to make our own private decisions about our health for granted.

Texas State Senator Wendy Davis, D-Forth Worth, spends a quiet moment after her filibuster was halted on the final day of the legislative special session. (Louis DeLuca/Dallas Morning News/MCT)

Texas State Senator Wendy Davis, D-Forth Worth, spends a quiet moment after her filibuster was halted on the final day of the legislative special session. (Louis DeLuca/Dallas Morning News/MCT)

Look at what’s happening nationwide.

Last week, the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1797, a far-reaching measure that would restrict the time frame in which abortions are allowed, from about 24 weeks down to 20 weeks after conception. According to The New York Times, several states have already done this or something similar.(Read former Seattle City Councilmember Judy Nicastro’s harrowing Times op-ed on her late-term abortion at this link.)

The supporters of such measures — mostly Republicans — often say they are protecting women’s health. That’s misleading, considering this Guttmacher Institute Q&A that cites studies showing less than 1% of U.S. women suffer major complications after they undergo a safe, legal abortion. As long as the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling is in place, anti-abortion forces are really doing everything they can to chip away at access. Hence, the measures we saw the GOP attempting to pass in Texas, including a ban on abortions after 20 weeks and a slew of regulatory procedures designed to make it difficult for doctors to work and for clinics to remain open.

Davis’ marathon filibuster stopped this nonsense — for now. Gov. Rick Perry has called a second session and placed these abortion bills back on the agenda.

Washingtonians, Texas women need our support from afar and we must remain vigilant. We are fortunate to live in a state that has long respected a woman’s privacy. (Check out this write-up at HistoryLink.com for more and my Jan. 23 blog post about public support for the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling.) In fact, Planned Parenthood and reproductive rights advocates worked hard this year to pass the Reproductive Parity Act to protect insurance coverage for abortions, albeit unsuccessfully.

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Comments | Topics: abortion, texas, Washington State Legislature

May 28, 2013 at 7:00 AM

No need to paint all Catholic hospitals in Washington with same broad brush

Tuesday’s editorial argues there’s a difference between health systems that merge and those that are setting up a new working relationship. I urge us all to resist painting UW Medicine‘s latest community hospital ally, PeaceHealth, with the same broad brush that many might be tempted to apply to the entire Catholic hospital system.

The UW Medicine-PeaceHealth “strategic affiliation” announced last week is more or less a referral network that is intended to serve two major purposes. First, officials say their goal is to provide patients of all backgrounds with seamless care in an age of complex health care reforms that will demand better outcomes. Second, we’re looking at an opportunity to train the next generation of doctors, nurses and hospital employees.

The public should not confuse this “strategic affiliation” with the other emerging trend in Washington state that will soon lead to half of all hospital beds being run by Catholic-affiliated hospitals. I certainly have some concerns about this, as previously expressed by Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat and tracked by MergerWatch.org. I believe patients in publicly-subsidized hospitals deserve to have access to the full range of health services — including abortion care, scientifically-proven stem-cell procedures and end-of-life services. At some point, lawmakers may have to set some parameters.

Of course, each hospital should be judged on its own merits. After spending considerable time on the phone with the key players in this “strategic affiliation,” including UW Medicine Chief Health System Officer Johnese Spisso and PeaceHealth Chief Strategy Officer Peter Adler, I don’t believe this particular alliance is an attempt by the Catholic church to take over the university’s venerable teaching hospital and limit what future doctors and nurses are trained to do.

Here’s why:

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Comments | Topics: abortion, catholic church, health care

April 18, 2013 at 6:04 AM

Washington senators fail to pass abortion insurance, but not too late for Dream Act

Let me start by reiterating one point: The Seattle Times editorial board respects a woman’s right to privacy and to receive insurance coverage for maternal or abortion care. In our editorial, we have supported HB 1044, the Reproductive Parity Act, and I’ve written about this issue several times over the last few months in blog posts.

Fast forward to the present.

I should have known women’s health would be used as a political football. Somehow, I thought members of the Washington state Senate would find a way to call a truce and pass the Reproductive Parity Act — a bill that simply protects the state’s current rules after federal health care reforms take effect.

I was wrong. Flat-out naive, really, to think lawmakers would respect the will of most Washington voters on this sensitive issue.

We can’t assign blame to one party or coalition. There’s enough of that to go around.

Pro-abortion rights lawmakers such as state Sens. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, and Karen Keiser, D-Kent, are understandably peeved by two failed efforts within 48 hours to bring the RPA to the floor, according to this Tuesday press statement and a Wednesday Associated Press news story. (Watch TVW’s video of  the second contentious show-down below.) Just don’t forget this issue also stalled last year when the chamber was controlled by Democrats.

In 2012, then-Senate Democratic Majority Leader Lisa Brown held a version of the Reproductive Parity Act until the end of the session,  then attached it to a Republican budget bill during the contentious ninth order proceedings as part of a failed power play. (For a primer on what happened, here is a 2012 Crosscut story and a March 5, 2012 press release issued by the RPA’s co-sponsor, state Sen. Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island, explaining how he got politically steam rolled on the issue.)

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Comments | More in Video | Topics: abortion, dream act, Reproductive Parity Act

April 2, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Video: Randi Becker stalls bill, goes against Washington’s tradition of supporting abortion rights

After holding a public hearing before a packed room Monday, Senate Health Care Committee Chairwoman Randi Becker, R-Eatonville, announced she would not schedule a vote for the Reproductive Parity Act, the most controversial social issue of the session that also happens to have the public support of 25 of 49 state senators (including moderate Democratic state Sen. Steve Hobbs and two members of the Majority Coalition Caucus, state Sens. Rodney Tom and Steve Litzow).

That one-vote edge would be just enough to get HB 1044 to Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk, but anti-abortion lawmakers (including Democratic senators Jim Hargrove and Tim Sheldon) are blocking it in a state that has long supported a woman’s right to privacy.

Becker’s decision on this matter risks alienating those who already associate the GOP with “anti-woman” sentiments. Members of the Majority Coalition Caucus are digging a political hole for themselves. The many Washingtonians who support reproductive rights are vocal — and they will not forget this episode.

Watch public testimony from Monday’s hearing in the video below, courtesy of TVW:

For the record, I really like the concept of power-sharing in the Senate. I want the MCC to succeed. I just happen to disagree with most of their members on this abortion rights issue. We should protect the status quo when it works. I’ll explain more below.

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Comments | More in Video | Topics: abortion, karen keiser, politics