OLYMPIA — The Democratic House passed its latest version of a bill that would require insurance companies to cover abortion if they cover maternity care, but the Reproductive Parity Act seems unlikely to come to a vote in the Senate.
On a mostly partisan 54-44 vote, the bill passed despite objections from Republicans that it infringed on some people's religious rights because it forced them to pay premiums to a company for a procedure they found morally wrong.
Both sides used the term choice — a key word for supporters of abortion rights — in arguing their case. Opponents like Rep. Shelly Short, R-Addy, said the Legislature was taking away the choice of people who want a policy that doesn't cover abortion.”There's no choice in a mandate,” Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, said.
Rep. Larry Springer, D-Kirkland, said he supported the bill because it left the choice on whether to have an abortion to the woman, not to her employer who decides what policy to offer, or the insurance company. “There is no choice that is more significant to a woman,” Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, said.
As is typical for abortion legislation, the debate sometimes got emotional. Rep. Leonard Christian, R-Spokane Valley, compared the bill to Nazi Germany, saying that some churches covered up the fact that Jews were being shipped concentration camps by playing their music louder as the trains passed. Some churches are objecting to the bill, but some legislators were playing their music louder and not listening, he said.
The Senate, which is controlled by a predominantly Republican coalition, is not likely to have an emotional debate over the RPA, or any vote at all. Majority Caucus Chairwoman Linda Evans Parlette of Wenatchee said she didn't believe the bill was necessary because abortion is covered by most insurance. (Editor's note: Sen. Evans Parlette's caucus position was incorrect in earlier versions of this post.)
“I think it's not going to come up for a vote,” Evans Parlette said.
Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina, said he personally supports the legislation but doesn't think it's as important as some other issues the Legislature faces this session.
“We leave full discretion up to our committee chairs,” Tom said. The bill died in committee last year.