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June 27, 2013 at 6:00 AM
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.
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. (more…)
May 28, 2013 at 7:00 AM
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.
April 18, 2013 at 6:04 AM
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.)
April 2, 2013 at 6:00 AM
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. (more…)
February 1, 2013 at 7:00 AM
Watch fascinating testimony on both sides of the issue below, courtesy of TVW.
ICYMI: here’s The Seattle Times’ recent editorial supporting SB 5009 and its companion bill in the lower chamber, HB 1044.
Abortion opponents denounce the Reproductive Parity Act (RPA) as a mandate because it would require insurance companies to cover abortions if they cover maternity care. This is true, but it overlooks two other points. First, the RPA includes religion and conscience exemptions. Second, without the measure, some women risk losing access to abortions if their insurance decides to stop covering the procedure.
Obamacare has received praise for helping women receive better care, but the final deal came at a cost during negotiations in 2010. According to the National Women’s Law Center, ” the health care law explicitly allows states to pass laws banning private insurance coverage of abortion in any exchange set up in their state.”
The Reproductive Parity Act would prevent this outcome in Washington. The bill protects current coverage levels. So far, insurance companies have not protested the measure. They also haven’t promised to maintain the status quo. The state could be the first to take legislative action to protect a woman’s right to be insured for abortion.
Other states are going in the opposite direction.
Take a look at the map below, also from NWLC. It shows 18 other states have banned insurance coverage of abortion in state exchanges. Six — including neighboring Idaho —go further and prohibit plans outside the exchange from paying for the procedure. Kentucky and North Dakota have the strictest laws — neither allows public or private insurance coverage for abortion.
(Map source: National Women’s Law Center)
Again, most plans in Washington already cover both maternal care and abortion. The big question is whether those rights will be maintained after the Affordable Care Act takes effect in January 2014. At that point, Washington’s health exchange will be in place. Insurance companies will be subject to a new business climate. Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest spokeswoman Sara Kiesler explained the implications in an email to me earlier this week. Here’s an excerpt:
What Obamacare does do is allow insurance companies that cover abortions to participate in federally funded exchanges, assuming state law doesn’t prohibit it. If they choose to do so, though, they must set up a dual-payment system in which women receiving subsidies will have to pay a separate premium for abortion coverage—creating a financial burden for women and an administrative hassle for insurance companies.
At least two federal insurance plans joining the exchange will not cover abortion. Will other insurers be frustrated by the red tape and opt out?
I hope not, but that’s why the Reproductive Parity Act is important in a state like Washington where there’s historical, widespread support for a woman’s right to determine her own reproductive health decisions — regardless of her insurance situation.