Republican lawmakers have introduced nearly a dozen abortion-related bills in their most expansive attack on abortion rights in years.
The bills would erect new barriers in Washington state to abortion, declared legal without restriction by a vote of the public less than five years ago.
They run the gamut, from allowing employers to deny health benefits or sick leave for abortion to a bill sponsored by Rep. Mark Sterk, R-Spokane Valley, outlawing third-trimester abortions.
Other bills would cut off public money for abortion, require parental consent before a minor could have an abortion and require women to be shown “realistic” pictures of a fetus at two-week intervals of gestation before they could have an abortion.
None of the bills is expected to get beyond the GOP-controlled House, and many may not make it even to the House floor.
“I don’t think you’ll see much action on them,” said House Speaker Clyde Ballard, R-Wenatchee. “I doubt any of these bills will become law.”
But they send a message to voters in an election year: Elect a Republican governor and Senate and these kind of proposals may become law.
Legislators’ stands on abortion will be a key point in the more than 1.5 million voter guides the Christian Coalition plans to distribute in Washington state in the coming election, said Dave Welch, executive director of the national organization’s state chapter.
The abortion bills provide a way for people to distinguish the true believers in the Legislature from the mere posers.
“We want to make these guys take a position so when election time comes around we have something solid to go on,” Welch said. “Two-thirds of the freshmen elected to the House in 1994 were elected on a strong conservative platform.
“It’s not a threat, but a matter of reality that the activists who helped get them elected want to know if they should get out there and help them get re-elected.”
Many conservatives feel it’s time for social issues, particularly abortion, to move to the front burner.
“The first year, the new Legislature focused pretty much on economic things,” said Rep. Duane Sommers, R-Spokane, co-sponsor of a bill to require parental notice 48 hours before a minor’s abortion.
“People came here with an agenda to roll back and restrict abortion,” he said.
The bills would eat away at Initiative 120, a measure narrowly approved by voters in 1991 that affirms a woman’s right to abortion.
Sterk said he knows banning abortion - which he would like to do - or even greatly restricting it isn’t likely now. But introducing the bills keeps the issue before the public. “We have to continue to run these bills to keep the awareness up.”
Sterk is the prime sponsor of the bill to outlaw late-term and partial-birth abortions.
The bills include a clause that declares they should go into effect immediately to preserve the public health, safety and morals.
“That should give voters pause,” said Theresa Connor, lobbyist for Planned Parenthood of Washington. “It’s pretty scary. I don’t think any group has the right to define morality for everyone.
“It’s an incredible hypocrisy for people who ran on a platform of reducing government intrusion to turn around and intrude on this most private part of people’s lives.”
One bill would require abortion providers to file a report with the state on every abortion. The report would assign each woman an identification number and list the reason for her abortion, her age, where it was performed, and whether public money were used.
“Sounds like Big Brother to me,” said Rep. Lisa Brown, D-Spokane.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: ABORTION BILLS A sampling of abortion bills before the 1996 Washington Legislature: HB 2666 - Allows employers to decline to provide health benefits for abortion. HB 2679 - Allows employers to decline sick leave for abortion. HB 1519 - Requires certain information to be provided to women at least 24 hours before an abortion, including realistic pictures of the fetus at two-week gestational increments and information on adoption agencies and social service programs. HB 2524 - Criminalizes late-term and partial-birth abortions in which the fetus is deemed viable outside the womb. HB 1523 and HB 2265 - Require parents to be informed in writing of their minor child’s decision to have an abortion at least 48 hours before the procedure. HB 2442 - Requires consent of a parent or judge before any minor child’s abortion. HB 2475 - Denies public money for abortion unless the name of the father has been provided to the state Office of Child Support Enforcement. HB 2678 - Requires abortions to be performed only in accredited medical facilities. Also requires abortion providers to assign each woman they serve an identification number and to file a report with the state including the woman’s age, reason for the abortion, where it was performed and whether public money was used.