OLYMPIA — With Democrats in control of the state House and governor’s office, there is little chance serious restrictions on women’s right to abortion will be passed into law this year.
Abortion opponents haven’t stopped pushing. Last week, 13 House Republicans introduced a so-called “personhood” bill (HB 1687) that would bestow full constitutional rights to zygotes “at the moment of fertilization, cloning and other moment at which an individual member of the human species comes into being.”
While that’s not likely to get a hearing, abortion-rights supporters and foes faced off Monday to debate a more limited abortion restriction — requiring parental notification in most cases before teenagers can obtain abortions.
State Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, who chairs the Senate Law and Justice Committee, called the hearing for his Senate Bill 5289, which would require abortion providers to notify parents or guardians 48 hours in advance of performing abortions on minors. The bill would not require parental notice in cases of medical emergencies and would allow teens to petition a judge to waive the notice requirement for cases of sexual abuse or other hardship.
Supporters of the bill testified to a litany of problems they said have plagued teen girls who obtain secret abortions — sometimes under pressure from pimps or abusive boyfriends — from family estrangement to drug abuse and anorexia. They pointed out that Washington is unusual in not having some form of parental notification.
“This state is in the radical minority,” said Lisa Atkins, northwest regional coordinator for Students for Life of America, which turned out a group of blue-shirted “pro-life generation” college students in favor of the bill. One student with the group testified that Planned Parenthood has abortion quotas and an incentive to encourage “sex trafficking of minors.”
An even larger group of abortion-rights activists, many wearing pink shirts, turned out in opposition, arguing the law, even with exceptions, would throw up roadblocks to abortion rights for teens who sometimes face hostile home environments.
Dr. Lyndsey Benson, a ob-gyn at the University of Washington Medical Center, said she’s counseled pregnant teens and that most involve their parents in such decisions. But many who fear that disclosure have suffered sexual abuse or face threats of violence or being kicked out of homes, she said.
“Our adolescent women deserve access to safe and confidential reproductive health care,” said Benson.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, which backs abortion rights, 38 states require some level of parental involvement in a minor’s abortion decisions, with 21 of them requiring parental consent and 12 requiring notification.
Padden, a longtime leader in the “pro-life” movement, has been pushing parental notification laws since his first stint as a state legislator in the 1990s. Last year, a notification bill passed out of his committee but failed to advance to a Senate floor vote.