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Following Senate Hearing, Reproductive Health Groups Praise Efforts on Health Care Equity For All

OLYMPIA, WA – Today, on the 45th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, reproductive health and rights advocacy groups in Washington praised Senate Democrats for passing the Reproductive Parity Act (RPA) out of the Senate Health & Long Term Care Committee following nearly six years of debate. The RPA, alongside proposed reproductive health equity legislation shows progress toward reducing disparities in reproductive health care. The Washington State Senate heard the Reproductive Health Access for All Act (SB 6105), a bill to broadly expand access to a wide range of health services; the Employee Reproductive Choice Act (SB 6102), a fix to the Hobby Lobby ruling in 2014; and a breast health bill (SB 5912) focused on insurance coverage of 3-D mammography, among others. The main sponsor of SB 6105 and 6102 is Senator Kevin Ranker and Senator Patty Kuderer on SB 5912. All three bills have garnered support from Senate Democrats, along with that of Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii, Legal Voice, NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, Gender Justice League, and the ACLU of Washington.

The first Senate hearing was held earlier today, where Health & Long Term Care Committee members heard testimony about the benefits of health care coverage for all Washingtonians. Testifiers included Liliana Rasmussen; Deborah Oyer, MD, Cedar River Clinics; Priya Walia, Legal Voice; Sara Fadich; Corina Pfiel; and Huma Zarif, who spoke about ensuring parity and equity in health care and expanding protections for marginalized and vulnerable populations. A House hearing has not yet been scheduled.

“Planned Parenthood Votes believes that everybody deserves affordable and equitable access to reproductive and sexual health care, including birth control and abortion, regardless of gender, gender identity, citizenship status, or income,” said Courtney Normand, Washington public affairs manager at PPVNH. “Last year, we expanded access to contraception and this year, we are excited the legislature is moving to a more expansive and inclusive Reproductive Health Access for All Act.”

"We at NARAL Pro-Choice Washington are excited to see that after five years of deliberation, legislators are poised to pass a comprehensive bill ensuring access to affordable reproductive health care for all Washingtonians, regardless of their gender identity, income, or immigration status. As the Trump Administration continues to chip away at access to health care, Washington State legislators have the opportunity lead by example and pass a reproductive health access act that guarantees access to health care for all."

“DACA recipients, undocumented women, and other immigrants under the federally mandated five-year bar need additional protections in the law to fill the gaps in their reproductive health coverage,” said Priya Walia, staff attorney at Legal Voice. “It is equally critical to address the specific reproductive health needs of transgender Washingtonians. We all need and deserve access to safe, equitable health care. The Reproductive Health Access for All Act ensures that our most marginalized and vulnerable communities are not left behind.”

Oregon is the only state in the nation that requires insurance companies to cover the full spectrum of reproductive health care for men and women.

"Gender Justice League strongly supports SB 6105 because we see the negative impacts of how restrictions on reproductive health care harm trans and gender diverse people every day,” said Danni Askini, executive director at Gender Justice League. “Many programs include specific language to exclude people based on their gender. Today, transgender women experience HIV rates at 50 times the rate of non-transgender women, regular screening and testing is vital to keeping our community healthy and thriving. We stand with all other low-income women, women of color, immigrant women, young women, and survivors of domestic violence in pushing for fully inclusive reproductive health care for all."

Restrictions on reproductive health care have been shown to cause harmful effects on public health, particularly for those who already face significant barriers to receiving care, such as low-income women, women of color, immigrant women, young women, survivors of domestic violence, and transgender and gender-nonconforming people. In the United States, 31 percent of transgender Americans lack regular access to health care.

"The ability to make one’s own reproductive choices is a fundamental right, and it is under attack by the Trump Administration," ACLU of Washington legislative director Elisabeth Smith said. "The ACLU of Washington supports SB 6219 to ensure access to reproductive care for low-income individuals, who are more likely to face barriers to reproductive health coverage."

After more than five years of deliberation on the Reproductive Parity Act, now is the time to pass legislation ensuring abortion access to all Washingtonians, in addition to advancing bills that ensure health care equity for all.