We are continuing to educate House Minority members on the urgent need for HB 25, the bill to require insurance coverage of 12 months of birth control. Right now all that is preventing this bill from moving forward is Representative Ledoux, the chair of the Rules Committee who will determine whether the bill will move out of committee.
Representative Ledoux introduced a constitutional amendment to require parental notification and consent to abortion for minors (HJR 32). In 2016, the Alaska Supreme Court struck down a law requiring parental notification for minors seeking abortions on the grounds that it violated the state constitution’s equal protection provision. HJR 32 was referred to three House committees, but we remain hopeful that this bill won’t move forward.
On Monday, February 19th, the Senate Health and Social Services committee held a public hearing on SB 124. This bill would limit abortions later in pregnancy by requiring health care providers to alter their practice of medicine to prioritize the health of a fetus over the health of a woman. Our field team recruited activists to attend the hearing and testify against the bill, and both volunteers and staff presented powerful testimony on why this bill is dangerous for women.
2018 has already been a busy session already for anti-choice legislators, and we have seen an increase in the number of bad bills moving forward and being introduced over the past week.
The so-called Abortion Reversal bill (SB 1243) that would require abortion providers to tell patients where they can get help locating a health care provider who can consult with them about the possibility of reversing a medication abortion had a public hearing last week. The bill’s proponents flew in an out-of-state doctor to discuss a widely-discredited case series that purports to demonstrate the efficacy of this procedure. Meanwhile, Senators Buckner-Webb and Stennett asked questions about the junk science behind this bill and the ethics of experimenting on vulnerable patients. Our staff and volunteers provided powerful testimony on what it looks like to truly protect patient health and choice. Unfortunately, despite this strong testimony and turnout the committee still voted to send this dangerous bill to the floor.
We have also seen two other pieces of anti-choice legislation introduced this week. (HB 572) would restrict public funding for family planning, prioritizing funding to public agencies and placing providers like Planned Parenthood that specialize in family planning care in the lowest tier. Because funding is already so limited, this would effectively prevent family planning providers from receiving public family planning funds. We are working to educate lawmakers on the devastating consequences this could have for the state’s family planning safety net.
HB 571 would require reporting of health “complications” arising from the performance of an abortion to the state Department of Health & Welfare and establish additional criminal and professional penalties for providers. Abortion is one of the safest and most thoroughly researched medical procedures in the United states, and this bill’s expansive and politically-motivated reporting requirements goes beyond what is needed to improve public health and would instead stigmatize women obtaining abortions and intimidate abortion providers.
Despite these attacks, we continue to advocate for proactive policies to improve access to reproductive health. The Senate Health and Welfare Committee voted unanimously to print the 12 months of birth control bill on February 7th. The next step is scheduling a public hearing.
The bill to codify ACA protections in state law, including requiring insurers to cover youth under 26 on their parents’ insurance and banning discrimination on the basis of sex and pre-existing conditions, was passed unanimously by the House Health and Human Services committee. It now heads to the Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee for a hearing. However, we were disappointed that the House version was amended to delete the provision that required insurers to cover dependent youth under age 26. We are pushing lawmakers to add this important provision back into the bill and working to ensure that it is not removed from the Senate version.
The Reproductive Health Equity bills (HB 2127 / SB 2341) require health plans sold in Hawaii to provide coverage for a number of reproductive health care services at no out-of-pocket cost and expand Med-Quest eligibility for family planning services to those who have been categorically excluded from the program because of their citizenship status. Unfortunately, neither version of this bill was scheduled for hearings before the deadline and so both are effectively dead for the 2018 session. We’ll be back next year!
The legislature shifted from public hearings on bills in committees to debating and passing legislation on the floors of the House and Senate before the mid-Session deadline for bills to pass out of their house of origin on Feb. 14th. Both chambers are working extra hours to pass legislation before key deadlines, including late-night and weekend work.
We are disappointed that neither version of the Reproductive Health Access for All Act (SB 6105) survived the mid-Session cutoff and we continue to push legislators to make commitments to work to improve health care access for all Washingtonians, including immigrants and transgender and gender non-conforming individuals. We hope to see work done between now and the 2019 legislative session to ensure that the legislature is prepared to address these critical issues.
However, we continue to see movement on a number of other priority bills. The RPA (SB 6219) was voted out of the House Health and Wellness Committee last week without any harmful amendments. Meanwhile, the ACA Preventive Services bill (HB 1523) had a hearing in the Senate Health & Long-Term Care Committee on Feb. 15th.
With these two bills moving along and SB 6105 effectively dead, we are now focusing our lobbying and field efforts on the Gender Pay Equity bill (House Bill 1506). It was passed by the Senate Labor & Commerce Committee on Feb. 7th, but is being held up due to a threatened amendment related to local preemption. We are working to educate lawmakers on the need to ensure that this bill is passed without unnecessary and harmful amendments.