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Four Years and Counting: Anti-Women’s Health Legislators Try to Mandate Family Communication and Place Restrictions on Women

OLYMPIA, WA – Today, the Senate Committee on Law and Justice held a hearing on a newly introduced bill, (SB 5320), that requires women under the age of 18 to notify their parents prior to accessing abortion care. The bill also includes a mandatory waiting period following the parents’ notification before a teenager could receive an abortion. The bill, which next could get scheduled for a vote by the full Senate, makes clear that reproductive rights and a woman’s right to choose are under attack across the country, including Washington state.

“Most teens already involve their parents when they face a pregnancy, but the ones who can’t still deserve to be safe. A vulnerable teen should not be forced to go before a judge to justify her need for safe and legal health care,” said Elaine Rose, CEO of Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii. “This is the fourth year in a row that anti-women’s health legislators have tried to mandate family communication and limit access to abortion, distracting us from the real issues facing today’s teens and families.”

Parental notification laws have negative effects for young women seeking abortions. Rather than keeping women safe, parental notification laws delay access to appropriate medical care, and increase the possibility of self-induced abortion, family violence, and poor birth outcomes. A judicial bypass provision, which requires a young woman to go to court and prove that she is mature and capable of giving informed consent to the proposed abortion, likewise would only cause unnecessary delays and denials of abortion care.

Parental notification laws are unnecessary and dangerous to the most vulnerable teens.  Most teens involve their parents when they face a pregnancy, but the ones who can’t still deserve safe and legal access to abortion.  The fact is that in some families, abuse, incest, addiction or worse make it unsafe for a young woman to be forced to notify her parents.

"This bill is nothing but a ploy by the anti-women movement to chip away at access to abortion in Washington State, starting with vulnerable young women," said Tiffany Hankins, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Washington. "We know young women who feel they can't involve a parent may take drastic and dangerous steps, such as illegal abortions, expensive travel to states without restrictions, or dangerous self-induced abortions. We must trust young women to make informed decisions about their private health care and personal safety.”

“Don’t be fooled: parental notification laws are not about improving communication between parents and teens,” said Lisa Stone, Executive Director of Legal Voice. “These laws are really about chipping away at the protections guaranteed to all women, regardless of their age, by Roe and by our own state laws.”

Indeed, this bill goes so far as to repeal parts of Initiative 120, the landmark voter initiative passed in 1991, effectively cutting off some women’s access to abortion care.

"With the new Trump administration already taking action to curtail the right to choose an abortion, it is more important than ever that Washington state safeguards our strong reproductive health laws. But instead, this bill puts unnecessary barriers between vulnerable teens and the health care they need,” said Doug Honig, Communications Director at ACLU of Washington.

SB 5320’s main sponsor, Senator Mike Padden (R-4) has compared getting an abortion to getting your ears pierced or taking aspirin at school, which shows us how little he understands about the life-changing nature of teen pregnancy, especially for a teen that already struggles with a difficult family environment. The republican-dominated Senate Majority Coalition Caucus led by Mark Schoesler, (R-9) has set the agenda by holding this hearing on a dangerous bill that targets abortion access for the most vulnerable teens in our state and attacks a woman’s right to choose.