OLYMPIA – A hearing on a bill that would require minors to notify their parents before terminating a pregnancy pitted those who argued it was an issue of parental rights against those who say the measure is an effort to restrict access to abortion.
The Senate Law & Justice Committee was packed Wednesday with supporters and opponents of the measure that would deny a pregnant minor an abortion unless she had given at least 48 hours’ notice to one parent or a legal guardian. A pregnant teen could petition a superior court for a waiver of the requirement.
“This bill is not trying to stop abortions,” Sen. Don Benton, a Republican from Vancouver who sponsored the measure, told the committee. “What this bill is about is notifying parents of their children’s activities before they engage in them. It’s a common-sense right.”
Under the measure, anyone who performs an abortion on a minor without the proper notification requirements is guilty of a gross misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and/or a $5,000 fine. No notice is required if there is a medical emergency.
According to The Guttmacher Institute, which tracks reproductive health issues, 38 states require some type of parental involvement in a minor’s decision to have an abortion.
Dr. Yolanda Evans, a pediatrician at Seattle Children’s Hospital who is opposed to the measure, said most of the teens she sees with unintended pregnancies have the support of their parents.
Evans said she worries that, if required to notify parents, teens would try to find other dangerous means to end their pregnancies.
“I’m here to be a voice for my patients, not the ones who have parental support, but those vulnerable ones who don’t,” she said.
Sen. Mike Padden, a Republican from Spokane Valley, said he believed he had the votes to get it through committee.
Even if the bill was passed out of the Senate, it is certain to lose traction in the Democrat-controlled House.
Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, said he opposes the bill, noting it “goes backwards to ideological debates that we should be well beyond in the state of Washington.”