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Bill would expand women’s reproductive health care

OLYMPIA – More women would have their reproductive health care and abortions covered by their employee medical insurance under a bill heard by a Senate panel Tuesday.

SB 6219 would require health plans as of January 2019 to provide gynecological and maternal health care, birth control and voluntary sterilization. It also would require plans that cover maternity care to cover abortions.

The bill also would require the state to provide reproductive care for women barred from federal public aid because of immigration status.

Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, the bill’s sponsor, said it is about basic preventative health care that all women should be able to access.

“It’s up to the state to do everything that we can to protect women’s reproductive health,” he told the Senate Health and Long Term Care Committee.

It would create a better system for all women in the state, said Jessie Turner with the National Organization for Women.

“(The bill) will mark the beginning, not the end, to more equal, fair, and comprehensive health care for all,” she said.

But anti-abortion activists said the bill narrows the choices for providers and could mean they either stop coverage or pay for something against their religious beliefs.

The requirement would erode First Amendment rights because it does not have provisions for religious organizations, said Theresa Schrempp, an attorney from Seattle.

“The tradition of tolerance should be cherished, not undermined,” Schrempp said.

Faith Mischel, a Seattle businesswoman, said neither she nor her adopted son, whose birth mother opted not to have an abortion, want to be forced to provide coverage for a practice they don’t support. She said she needed to speak on behalf of “pro-life women who are business owners.”

“Taking the life of an unborn child is not something I nor (my son) would ever want to do,” Mischel said.

But decisions on reproductive health care, including abortion, should be the individual’s choice, not their employer’s, said Susan Eidenschink with the League of Women Voters.

“Washington state has a long history of placing trust in women to make their own healthcare decisions free from government intrusion,” she said.

The bill has not yet been scheduled for a committee vote.


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