The state House passed legislation Wednesday that would require physicians to notify parents of their minor child’s decision to obtain an abortion.
The vote was 54-44.
The bill faces strong opposition in the Senate, and Gov. Mike Lowry says he’ll veto any measure he feels conflicts with Initiative 120, an initiative approved by voters in 1992 that guarantees the right to abortion.
House Speaker Clyde Ballard, R-East Wenatchee, said at the start of the session that abortion was not on the GOP agenda. But members of his party devoted to rolling back abortion rights wouldn’t shelve the issue.
Rep. Mike Padden, R-Spokane, led supporters of the bill, which he said was more about parents’ rights than abortion. “I think it’s a parental, family issue primarily,” he said.
The Senate passed a bill this session requiring parental consent before children can get tattoos, Padden said. Abortion is a far more serious decision, he said, and parents deserve to be involved.
Working until midnight Tuesday, lawmakers grappled with 14 proposed amendments and finally postponed a vote on the full bill until Wednesday. The final count saw six Democrats joining 48 Republicans in passing the measure. Thirteen Republicans and 31 Democrats voted no.
House Bill 1523 would require doctors to inform parents of their minor child’s decision at least 48 hours before the procedure. Exceptions could be made in cases of sexual abuse or if a judge rules the girl is mature enough to decide herself.
In a surprise twist, the bill was amended Tuesday night to require notification of the father’s family as well as the mother’s if the father is also under age 18.
Critics say the bill interferes with a personal decision and may lead teenagers to seek illegal abortions.
Most young women facing such decisions already confide in parents, said Rep. Lisa Brown, D-Spokane. Those who don’t often have good reasons, including fear of abuse.
“There are families where it is not safe for young women to share the information with their parents,” Brown said.
Democrats showered the debate with amendments intended to point out weak points in the bill and drive a wedge between Republicans.
The amendment to require notification of the father’s parents caused the biggest headache.
Padden strongly opposed the amendment, saying it would further complicate matters for young women. “It is not always in the mother’s best interests to have the father notified,” he said.
But supporters, mostly opposed to the overall bill, said it was an issue of fairness.
“What’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” said Julia Patterson, D-SeaTac. She sponsored the amendment, but said later that she didn’t expect it to pass.
When it did, Republicans left the House chamber in some confusion and met for two hours in a closed caucus to hammer out the differences in their own ranks.
“People have this impression that all Republicans are identical, and it’s not true,” said Maryann Mitchell, R-Federal Way, who supports abortion rights.
Ballard said the party was big enough to tolerate dissent.
“The right of this place is the right of free debate,” Ballard said. “We’ve had a lot of free debate in the caucus.”
Some of Tuesday’s amendments were offered in jest.
Parents would be given nine months advance notice of any planned abortion under an amendment offered by Mary Lou Dickerson, D-Olympia. The amendment failed overwhelmingly.
The “Buttafucco” amendment, offered by Rep. Tim Sheldon, D-Hoodsport, would have required notification of “the wife of the father of the baby, if the father is married to someone other than the mother of the baby.” It also failed.
Contract bills GOP leaders say these bills, which have passed the House, fulfill their “Contract with Washington State.”
Property rights: Initiative 164 requires taxpayers to pay property owners if regulations reduce the value of their property.
Regulatory reform: ESHB 1010 limits state agencies’ ability to pass regulations; requires a sunset review of all regulations every seven years; requires two visits from state regulators before fines can be levied for breaking a rule in most cases.
Tax cuts: HB2072 rolls back all business and occupation taxes to pre-1993 levels. Cost to state is $296 million for the coming biennium. HB1957 reduces the state property tax levy in 1996 by 10 percent. Cost to state is $184 million for the coming biennium.
Education: HB1027 cuts spending on school administration and redirects the money to the classroom. HB1036 audits the superintendent of public instruction. Health care reform: HB1046 repeals most of the 1993 health care reform act, continues existing insurance reforms, authorizes medical savings accounts.
Crime: HB1021 requires juveniles to be tried as adults if they commit a violent crime with a gun. Initiative 159 increases penalties for crimes committed with guns.
Welfare reform: HB1481 limits benefits to two years, with exceptions for hardship cases; declares unwed teenage mothers ineligible for benefits; denies benefits to additional children born to mothers on welfare.