Washington State is Leading the Way For Reproductive Rights

The Affordable Care Act was a huge victory for women, with its most recent advances expanding access to reproductive health care and ensuring that preventive services like contraception and breastfeeding support would no longer require a co-pay.

But the state of Washington isn't satisfied yet.

Introduced by Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and backed by well-known allies, the Reproductive Parity Act would require both public and private Washington insurance providers that cover maternity care to also cover abortions. This bill was also introduced last year, but died in the Senate.

State Rep. Laurie Jinkins was one of the many to ensure it would get another chance there this year.

"One of our top priorities in the House is to pass the RPA. I'll vote for it again and again," she said.

The bill passed in the state House last month by a vote of 53-43, with several Republican state representatives crossing party lines to vote in favor of the bill. The bill goes to the state Senate next, where they are again counting on Republicans to make the leap.

State Sen. Steve Litzow embraced this notion, saying, "I'm a pro-choice Republican. Women's health shouldn’t be a partisan issue."

Washington has generally been progressive when it comes to abortion, imposing no restrictions such as waiting periods or mandated parental involvement. Its abortion law, adopted by public vote in 1991, states that "every woman has the fundamental right to choose or refuse to have an abortion" and that "the state may not deny or interfere with a woman's right to choose to have an abortion prior to viability of the fetus, or to protect her life or health."

Those who oppose the bill assert that this would force them to "pay for murder," and Human Life Washington's Peggy O'Ban told reporters that "Americans will be forced by their government to pay for the taking of human life in violation of conscience for the first time in the history of our nation."

Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler is also pessimistic that the bill would see floor votes this time, either, giving the excuse that he "would rather see our time focused on how we get to a four-year balanced budget, how we reform K-12, what we do about higher education."

There also remain concerns that the RPA would conflict with federal law, specifically the Hyde amendment, which prohibits discrimination against an insurer for not providing abortion coverage. The RPA has been amended to address such concerns, but opposition on these grounds remain.

However, Governo Jay Inslee's opinion is clear.

"Washington women need the freedom and privacy to make the health care decisions that are best for themselves and their families," he said. "That's why I look forward to the Legislature sending the Reproductive Parity Act to my desk, which I will sign."

The Reproductive Parity Act will be presented to the Senate soon, although no date is yet in place. But in a landmark year where Washington legalized marijuana and same-sex marriage, perhaps placing faith in the state senators this time around is not so illogical.

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Christine Salek

Christine is a writer and perpetual student living in Des Moines, Iowa. Her writing can also be found on Medium, the Gonzaga Bulletin, and ResearchGate.

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