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McMorris Rodgers votes to defund Planned Parenthood

Making good on a vow she made at a Spokane town hall event last month, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers joined 238 of her House Republican colleagues Friday in voting to stop the flow of federal money to controversial reproductive care group Planned Parenthood.

The measure is unlikely to pass in the Senate, where Democrats have enough votes to defeat it. President Barack Obama has promised to veto any such bill if it arrives at his desk, and the issue will likely become a sticking point in federal spending discussions later this fall, prompting fears of another government shutdown. 

The bill passed the House on a largely party-line vote, 241-187.

Planned Parenthood, which received $528.4 million in funding from federal, state and local governments in its most recent fiscal year, has been the source of controversy since the release of viral videos this summer from a political group that opposes abortion. That group, The Center for Medical Progress, pointed to the video as evidence the organization was profiting from fetal tissue taken from aborted fetuses, a claim Planned Parenthood has flatly rejected as part of long-standing right-wing efforts to shutter the group.

None of the money Planned Parenthood receives from the federal government is used to provide abortion services, per requirements of federal law.

The controversy has sparked protests in Spokane and elsewhere, calling for an investigation into Planned Parenthood's practices. McMorris Rodgers, in public comments before Friday's vote, said it was important for the House to "take a stand."

"What kind of a country are we if we accept that these procedures are somehow acceptable?" McMorris Rodgers said.

Sen. Rand Paul, a presidential hopeful who stopped in Spokane for a rally last month, said it was important for the Senate to vote on Planned Parenthood's funding, but he didn't believe the chamber would have the votes to pass a bill withholding federal funds. 

McMorris Rodgers' full statement, released after her vote to defund Planned Parenthood and in favor of a related bill that would impose prison time for doctors who perform abortions but do nothing to save viable fetuses delivered during the procedure, follows:

“The undercover videos featuring senior level officials admitting to unethical and potentially illegal procedures should be of great concern to everyone. Anyone watching these videos can surely say—the American people deserve answers.

“What kind of country are we if we think the actions revealed in these videos are acceptable? We must work towards better protections for women, children, and families. In addition to the vital legislation passed today, we have three powerful committees investigating the abortion practices described. Our work is just beginning.

“America is the place where everyone is empowered to achieve a better life. And that begins with safety and security for everyone. Of course, those who would commit violent acts against Planned Parenthood are also clearly in the wrong.

“Women’s health care should be available from providers who do not practice these horrendous acts. No woman should have to choose between getting the care she needs and supporting an organization that harvests baby organs.”

Planned Parenthood responds to weekend protests

Planned Parenthood responded to this weekend's local protest events by reiterating their commitment to providing reproductive health services and calling claims that they profit from fetal tissue untrue "political attacks" from right-leaning "extremists."

"These politically-motivated attacks claiming that Planned Parenthood profits in any way from tissue donation are simply not true,” read a statement from Tanya Riordan, vice president of community outreach for Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho.

The statement echoes the position of the national organization, which has criticized a series of videos released by an organization opposed to abortion as heavily edited and sensationalized. Riordan emphasized that Planned Parenthood offers a variety of health care services to low-income patrons.

"These protests and attacks on Planned Parenthood are meant to harass and intimidate patients from seeking vital health care services, including lifesaving cancer screenings and treatment, infection testing and treatment, family planning and birth control, and much more," the local chapter of the nonprofit said in its statement. "Make no mistake: These are fundamentalist extremist groups that gain attention and gratification from obstructing women’s access to health care, birth control, and honest education.”

At the protest on Saturday morning, state Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, called the group an "evil organization" that was committing acts on par with Nazi Germany.

Planned Parenthood's annual report shows that 3 percent of its operations last year were related to abortion services. Many protesters said Saturday they were concerned about taxpayer dollars funding abortion. There are several state and federal laws that prohibit public funding of abortions, except in rare circumstances.

"Planned Parenthood will continue to be here for our patients no matter what," the local chapter said in its statement.

Legislators repeat call for Planned Parenthood investigation

OLYMPIA — A week ago, a group of state senators asked state Attorney General Bob Ferguson to investigate whether Planned Parenthood organizations in Washington had broken any laws in the wake of national reports the organization sold tissue from aborted fetuses.

The attorney general's office said it would study the request and get back to them.

On Wednesday, a day after a group calling itself Center for Medical Progress released a fifth video, the 10 lawmakers asked again, with Sen. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake, reminding the attorney general's office of the group's July 29 letter. Ferguson's spokeswoman said they are still studying the request.

"We won't have further public comment until the review is complete," Alison Dempsey-Hall said. 

Planned Parenthood officials say the undercover videos are highly edited and amount to a smear campaign. Abortion opponents have stepped up calls to cut federal funding for the organizaiton, but a vote on that failed in the Senate recently. 

Warnick's press release temporized somewhat on its allegation of wrongdoing. Conversations on the videos "could suggest (Planned Parenthood) may be performing partial birth abortions to provide fetal organs to biomedical companies for research." Comments by a Planned Parenthood official "hint" the organization needs increased scrutiny over partial-birth abortions.

Abortion declines in nearly all states

Nearly everywhere, in red states and blue, abortions are down since 2010.

Explanations vary. Abortion-rights advocates attribute it to expanded access to effective contraceptives and a drop in unintended pregnancies. Some foes of abortion say there has been a shift in societal attitudes, with more women choosing to carry their pregnancies to term. Read more.

9th Circuit upholds earlier ruling that Idaho’s 20-week abortion ban was unconstitutional

The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals today upheld U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill’s earlier decision that Idaho’s “pain-capable abortion” ban was unconstitutional. In a unanimous decision, a three-judge panel of the appeals court held that banning abortions from 20 weeks on is “facially unconstitutional because it categorically bans some abortions before viability.” The court also found other portions of Idaho’s restrictive anti-abortion laws unconstitutional; the decision is online here.

The court challenge was brought by an Idaho woman who was the target of a criminal complaint for self-inducing an abortion via medications that were purchased online and sent to her in the mail. Idaho lawmakers passed the “pain capable” abortion ban in 2011, saying they believed that at 20 weeks a fetus can feel pain, despite warnings that it likely wouldn’t pass constitutional muster; it was quickly overturned in court.

Idaho presses 9th Circuit to reverse court ruling overturning state’s ‘fetal pain’ abortion law

Idaho argued its appeal in the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals today of a federal judge's ruling overturning the state's "fetal pain" abortion law that sought to ban all abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy. Idaho was one of seven states to enact such laws in 2011; it was voided by a federal judge in March of 2013 as unconstitutional. Jennie Linn McCormack, an eastern Idaho woman, and Richard Hearn, an attorney and medical doctor, sued the state after she was charged with felony illegal abortion because prosecutors said she took an abortion-causing drug obtained over the Internet to terminate a pregnancy that was past the 20-week mark. In its appeal, the state contended McCormick couldn't argue the law put an undue burden on women because charges against her had been dropped and the case was moot. But that argument drew sharp questions Friday from the appeals court judges to Deputy Idaho Attorney General Clay Smith immediately drew sharp questions Friday, especially after it was determined the 5-year statute of limitations on the charge initially faced by McCormick hasn't expired. Click below for a full report from AP reporter Keith Ridler.

Senate OKs tanning booth age limits

OLYMPIA — Minors would not be allowed to get a tan in a tanning salon in Washington under a bill that passed the Senate today.

In a 40-8 vote, the Senate set the age limit for using a commercial tanning bed or booth at 18 or older — but not before veering into a brief debate over abortion.

The bill sets a civil penalty of $250 for each time a salon allows a minor to use an ultraviolet tanning device. It does not restrict minors from getting spray-on tans at a salon.

Supporters said it was necessary to protect young teens who don't realize the tans they get now can cause damaging and even fatal skin cancers in their 20s or 30s.

Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, tried to add a line to the restrictions for minors using tanning booths that would have required parental approval of "any surgical procedure." The bill aims to protect young people from making bad decisions that can cause them physical harm later in life, but supporters seemed to be "compartmentalizing" their concern for their well being, he said.

"They may also make a very poor choice that could cause them mental disfiguring for years," Benton said. "If this body intends to protect minors from making bad decisions…why do we single tanning out?"

But the Legislature regularly restricts teens from certain activity such as smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol or using marijuana, and restrictions on tanning are no different, Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent said.

Benton's amendment was ruled out of order and SB 6065 was sent to the House without any amendments.

RPA passes House, not likely to get Senate vote

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.

Panel narrowly passes Reproductive Parity Act

OLYMPIA — With a one-vote margin, the House Health Care and Wellness Committee passed a bill that would require most insurance companies to cover abortion if they cover maternity services.

HB 2148, often called the Reproductive Parity Act was denounced by opponents like Rep. Shelly Short, R-Addy, as limiting the choice of people who are morally opposed to abortion and don't want insurance plans that cover it for others.

But supporters like Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, said the decision on whether to have an abortion should be made by a woman and the people she chooses to consult — her doctor, family or faith community: "It is not for a business to decide, it is not for an insurance company to decide, it is not for someone else's faith community to decide."

Committee Chairwoman Eileen Cody, D-West Seattle, the sponsor of the bill, said for years she's had men ask her why they should pay for insurance plans with maternity services that they'll never use. But, she added "we're not going to change anyone's mind either way on this."

On a 9-8 vote, the bill was sent to the full House, which passed similar legislation last year. That bill stalled in the Senate when a Republican committee chairwoman refused to put it to a vote after a hearing and Democratic efforts to force it onto the floor through parliamentary maneuvers failed. 

Among Spokane-area legislators on the Health Care Committee, Short and Rep. Joe Schmick, R-Colfax, voted no and Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, voted yes.

Abortion foes fill Capitol mall

Rep. Matt Shea urges demonstrators for the March for LIfe to continue the fight against legalized abortion.

OLYMPIA — The annual March for Life brought several thousand demonstrators to the Capitol Tuesday, filling the north steps of the Legislative Building and the Temple of Justice.

Demonstrators cheered legislators of both parties who urged them to continue the against abortion and the Reproductive Parity Act, a proposal that would require almost any insurance policy that covers maternity benefits to also cover pregnancy termination.

State Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, said it was wrong to put completing a pregnancy on parity with ending a pregnancy.

The Washington State Patrol troopers on the scene estimated the crowd at between 3,000 and 4,000. A handful of abortion rights supporters gathered with signs in an area between the two steps.

Court won’t revive AZ 20-wk abortion ban

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has rejected Arizona's bid to put in place its ban on most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

The justices on Monday declined to reconsider a lower court ruling that the law violates a woman's constitutionally protected right to terminate a pregnancy before a fetus is able to survive outside the womb.

"Viability" of a fetus is generally considered to start at 24 weeks. Normal pregnancies run about 40 weeks.

Gov. Jan Brewer signed the ban into law in April 2012. Nine other states have enacted similar bans starting at 20 weeks or even earlier.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said last year such bans violate a long string of Supreme Court rulings starting with the seminal Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.

Pope Faults Focus On Gays, Abortion

Pope Francis, in the first extensive interview of his six-month-old papacy, said that the Roman Catholic church had grown “obsessed” with preaching about abortion, gay marriage and contraception, and that he has chosen not to speak of those issues despite recriminations from some critics. In remarkably blunt language, Francis sought to set a new tone for the church, saying it should be a “home for all” and not a “small chapel” focused on doctrine, orthodoxy and a limited agenda of moral teachings. “It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time,” the pope told the Rev. Antonio Spadaro, a fellow Jesuit and editor in chief of La Civiltà Cattolica/Laurie Goodstein, New York Times. More here. (AP photo)

Question: Significance?

Idaho ordered to pay another $376K in attorney fees re overturned abortion law

The state of Idaho has again been ordered to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorney's fees after losing a court battle over the Legislature's latest anti-abortion law, the Associated Press reports, with the tab now rising to more than $1 million since 2000. The latest bill comes in a lawsuit over Idaho's fetal pain law and other abortion restrictions; U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill ruled Thursday that the state owes more than $376,000 to attorneys for Jennie Linn McCormack, who sued over she was charged with a felony last year for allegedly having an illegal abortion. The Pocatello woman won her case last year, overturning several Idaho abortion restrictions.

Idaho won't have to pay that bill immediately because an appeal over some aspects of the case is still pending in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, reports AP reporter Rebecca Boone. If the state wins that appeal, it could reduce the amount it owes McCormack's attorneys. But if Idaho loses, it could result in a double-down of sorts with the state ordered to pay McCormack's appellate costs, as well; click below for Boone's full report.

Public hospitals with maternity services must offer abortions

OLYMPIA – Public hospitals that provide maternity services must also provide access to contraception and abortion, even if they contract with a private company that bars such services, state Attorney General Bob Ferguson said Wednesday.

In a formal attorney general’s opinion, Ferguson said state law, approved by voters in 1991, requires that a public hospital offer “substantially equivalent” abortion and contraceptive services if they provide maternity care.

Private hospitals, including those run by the Catholic Church, which has religious objections to contraception and abortion, have no such obligation, he said.

While private hospitals dominate Washington’s major cities, many rural areas have established public hospital districts, which elect board members and levy taxes to help cover some of the costs of medical care. Read more. Jim Camden, SR


AG: Public hospitals have to follow abortion law

OLYMPIA – Public hospitals that provide maternity services must also provide access to contraception and abortion, even if they contract with a private company that bars such services, state Attorney General Bob Ferguson said Wednesday.

In a formal attorney general’s opinion, Ferguson said state law, approved by voters in 1991, requires a public hospital offer “substantially equivalent” abortion and contraceptive services if they provide maternity care.

Private hospitals, including those run by the Catholic Church which has religious objections to contraception and abortion, have no such obligation, he said. . .

Abortion bill passes in Texas House

Supporters of House Bill 2, an abortion bill, react in the gallery of the Texas House after the bill passed Tuesday in Austin, Texas.

AUSTIN, Texas – The Texas House on Tuesday night provisionally approved tough new abortion restrictions, making good on a third attempt to pass the measure this year.

Activists on both sides of the issue from across the state and nation descended on the Capitol building, and the demonstrators erupted into screams, cheers and chants immediately following the vote.

Lawmakers debated for more than 10 hours Tuesday, before voting on the Republicans’ signature legislation. They approved the bill mainly along party lines. More here.

Did you ever doubt this bill would ultimately pass?

Costello: Media Ignores Abortion Trial

Newspeak is here. And it works. And thanks to Newspeak, one of the most horrific trials in American history is proceeding with little press attention. You probably don't know who Kermit Gosnell is. What should be the trial of the century has been mostly blacked out by the mainstream media. There are a number of reasons for their negligence. One reason is that the vocabulary adopted by the elites makes the precise description of Gosnell's alleged crimes impossible. It's similar to the Associated Press' deletion of the accurate term "illegal alien" from their stylebook. I still remember how to speak English. Gosnell is accused of performing seven illegal, late-term, partial-birth abortions. In the course of these abortions, he delivered living, breathing, crying babies whom he then executed by severing their spinal cords.He decorated his office with jars containing the preserved feet of his tiny victims. They were his trophies/Michael Costello, Lewiston Tribune. More here.

Question: We have also discussed this one before. Any further thoughts?

Sunday Spin: Parity bill cut off at cutoff

OLYMPIA – The Legislature has a variety of deadlines designed to winnow down the thousands of bills  introduced in any given session to a few hundred that actually require everyone to cast a vote.

These deadlines, known as cutoffs, generally require a bill to prove it has enough support to move to the next step: get out of a committee, win a vote in the chamber where it was introduced, get out of a committee in the other chamber, and so on.

They can also provide a bit of drama, because by missing the cutoff, a bill is often described as dead – not quite accurate because they do sometimes get called forth from the grave like Lazarus, although that’s more an exercise in parliamentary legerdemain than divine intervention.

As one of the final cutoffs neared last Wednesday, much of the drama revolved around the Reproductive Parity Act. . .

Heated debate over RPA in the Senate. More ahead?

OLYMPIA — Senate Democrats tried a new way to bring the Reproductive Parity Act to the floor through a parliamentary procedure.

After failing Tuesday in an attempt with one manuever — known as the 9th Order — on a 23-25 vote, they moved this morning to bring up a broad insurance bill this afternoon at 4:59 p.m., essentially making it the last bill before the clock ran out for one of the Legislature's key deadlines to pass bills. They would then amend the parity act onto the broader bill.

The motion from Sen. Karen Keiser brought loud objections from the Majority Coalition, with Republican Leader Mark Schoesler of Ritzville shouting "Point of order" so many times that Lt. Gov. Brad Owen finally said "I heard you the first time."

Keiser said the Majority Coalition said Tuesday they objected to the method of bringing up the RPA, which would require abortion to be offered by most insurance companies that cover maternity services. This was a different method, based on the fact that the insurance bill has a title so broad the parity act would fit under its umbrella.

Schoesler said Keiser was making a reference to other members and impugning them, which isn't allowed under Senate rules. Owen said he didn't hear any impugning of motives

The goal of the maneuvering is to create a situation in which two members of the Majority Coalition, Rodney Tom and Steve Litzhow, who support abortion rights will break with the caucus that opposes abortion.

"We were told there's always a way to bring a bill to the floor. We have found a way," Keiser said.

This wasn't it. The motion failed 23-25, with Tom and Litzhow voting against placing the omnibus insurance bill on the calendar as the last legislation to be debated before the deadline passes.

But the maneuver does signal a possible path for Democrats to get the RPA through the Senate. If the omnibus insurance bill comes up anytime before 5 p.m., they can move to add the parity act with an amendment, forcing an up or down vote on the substance of the bill that isn't tied to a fight over procedure.

Abortion Doctor Faces Death Penalty

Twenty months in a refugee camp in war-torn Bhutan didn’t break Karnamaya Mongar. But the 41-year-old Virginia woman met her demise in 2009 after seeking an abortion from a Philadelphia doctor who could face the death penalty if convicted on seven counts of first-degree murder. Through a Nepalese interpreter, Mongar’s daughter, Yashoda Gurung, testified Tuesday in the ongoing trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, 72, about the labor-inducing drugs and painkiller her mother was administered while awaiting the abortion provider to arrive for the second-trimester procedure. Gurung, 24, said she tried to wish her mother well before she was moved into the procedure room on Nov. 19, 2009, at the Women’s Medical Society clinic in West Philadelphia/Fox News. More here.

Question: The article goes on to say that the doctor also faces 7 counts of first-degree murder for allegedly killing babies who were born alive. I hadn't heard of this case until Monday. Religious conservatives say the mainstream media has ignored this case. What do you think?

Becker: No vote on abortion coverage bill

OLYMPIA —  Supporters of the controversial Reproductive Parity Act say they have enough votes to pass it in the Senate, but they may not get the chance.

The chairwoman of the committee that held a two-hour hearing on the bill said Monady afternoon she will not schedule a vote on it, meaning the bill will die without further parliamentary maneuvering.

Sen. Randi Becker, R-Eatonville and the chairwoman of the Senate Health Care Committee, said some four hours after the hearing she will not schedule a vote on the bill. Becker, who refused to hear a Senate version of the bill earlier in the year, said she fulfilled a pledge to hold a hearing on the House version after the bill passed the other chamber.

Some people consider the bill unnecessary because all health insurance companies offer abortion coverage, Becker said. Others, including U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, say it could jeopardize federal health care funds by violating a law that protects some groups from being forced to buy insurance that violates their religious principles.

The bill mentions exemptions for what's known as the conscience clause in three different places, but opponents said it contradicts those exemptions with other language that says an employee cannot be denied abortion coverage. 

"The fact is that at this point, House Bill 1044 is a solution in search of a problem," Becker said in a prepared statement to announce she wouldn't schedule a committee vote on the bill. Wednesday is a deadline for the bill to get voted out of the committee to continue moving through the regular process.  

Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens and a sponsor of the bill, told the committee Monday he had 25 signatures on a letter saying they would vote for it if it came to the Senate floor. That would be enough to pass it and send it to Gov. Jay Inslee, who has said he would sign it.

 To do that, however, they'd have to hold together and try bringing the bill to the floor through a parliamentary procedure. Among the 25 signers to the letter is Sen. Rodney Tom, of Medina, the Democrat who leads the mostly Republican majority coalition that controls the chamber and opposes the bill.

Abortion coverage bill faces deadline

OLYMPIA — As abortion-rights groups and their legislative allies try to force a vote on a bill that would expand requirements for insurance companies to cover the procedure, a Washington congresswoman is warning President Obama the proposal violates federal laws.

The Senate Health Care Committee held a two-hour hearing Monday morning on the House version of the Reproductive Parity Act, with regular supporters and foes of abortion lining up on the expected side of the bill that would require most insurance plans that offer maternity benefits to cover abortion, too.

There were dueling religious leaders. Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain argued the bill, if passed, would make insurance coverage of abortion mandatory in Washington, even for employers with religious objections to abortion. Rabbi Seth Goldstein of Olympia said the bill should be passed to provide "freedom of religion and freedom from religion.

There were dueling leaders from women's groups. Elaine Rose of Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest acknowledged that nearly every insurance plan offered in Washington covers insurance, and the bill was designed to "keep it that way" as federal health care reform proceeds. Angela Connolly of tlhe Washington Women's Network called the bill "anti-woman" because it forces them to accept a health care plan that forces them to "participate in what they see as violence against women."

Health Care Committee Chairwoman Randi Becker, R-Eatonville, sometimes had to remind speakers to stick to the bill rather than veering into some of the bigger controversies over abortion, such as when one abortion foe started discussing policies of Nazi Germany.

In the hearing room, Sen. Mike Padden released a copy of a letter, U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers sent Monday to Obama saying the bill has "far-reaching and alarming conseqluences for the citizens of Washington state who embrace life."

McMorris Rodgers, a Republican from Eastern Washington's 5th District, said the bill does not satisfy federal restrictions on "conscience rights", or the protection to allow people who have religions objections to abortion to opt out of insurance plans. That could  jeoparize federal funds for welfare, jobs and education, she said, adding she "looks forward to working with you as both Congress and Administration fullfill our constitutional rols to uphold and enforce…conscience protections."

Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, who sponsored a Senate version of the proposal that did not get a hearing in the committee, also had a letter, one signed by 25 senators enough promising to vote for the bill it if it comes to the floor.  That would be enough to pass it and send it to Gov. Jay Inslee, who has promised to sign it.

But the easy way to a floor vote comes if the bill passes out of the Health Care Committee by Wednesday, a deadline for bills from one chamber to pass the panel holding the hearing in the other chamber. Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent, wanted the committee to vote on the bill after Monday morning's hearing. But as testimony finished, with Keiser saying "Madam chairwoman, madam chairwoman," Becker gavelled the panel to adjournament without a vote. 

The committee has a meeting on Tuesday morning, however, to consider votes on any of  the House bills it has heard over the last month.

WA Lege Day 78: Abortion coverage hearing today

OLYMPIA — The Reproductive Parity Act, which would require any insurance plan that overs maternity benefits to also cover abortion, gets a hearing this morning in the Senate Health Care Committee.

The bill is controversial, as has been its scheduling.

Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina, who supports the bill, originally a Senate version of the bill would get a hearing in the Senate Law and Justice Committee in January. That panel held a two-hour hearing on a bill on the other side of the abortion debate, which required adult notification when a minor was seeking an abortion.

But Law and Justice Chairman Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, cancelled the parity bill hearing, and both he and Health Care Committee Chairwoman Randy Becker, R-Eatonville, refused to schedule one. Tom said chairmen have full discretion at what they hear, and he wouldn't override them, even though Senate Democrats introduced a third version of the bill in an attempt to get it sent to a friendlier panel.

When the House passed its version, Becker said she would hear that bill in Health Care. It's the only bill on that committee's  10 a.m. meeting.

To see the day's full committee hearing schedule, or to comment, continue inside the blog. 

Idaho first state to have ‘fetal pain’ abortion law overturned in court

Idaho is the first of 10 states that have enacted 'fetal pain' abortion laws since 2010 to have its law overturned, the Associated Press reports today. Yesterday's ruling from U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill also struck down two other Idaho laws dealing with abortion. Arizona also has a fetal pain law that's being challenged in court; the Idaho case could affect that, as both states are within the 9th Circuit. The other states that have enacted such laws are Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska and Oklahoma.

Click below for a full report from AP reporter Rebecca Boone.

Federal court strikes down Idaho’s ‘fetal pain’ abortion law, plus two others

Idaho's 'fetal pain' abortion law, banning abortions after 20 weeks based on the disputed idea that a fetus at that point can feel pain, has been overturned in federal court as unconstitutional. The law, passed in 2011, was found to be an undue burden on a woman's right to have an abortion. U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill, in a 42-page decision, found "compelling evidence of the legislature's 'improper purpose' in enacting it," writing, "The state may not rely on its interest in the potential life of the fetus to place a substantial obstacle to abortion before viability in women's paths."

The ruling also strikes down two other Idaho laws regarding abortion, one requiring that first-trimester abortions be performed by a physician in a staffed office, thereby making drug-induced abortions illegal; and one that criminalizes women who have abortions. "Historically, abortion statutes sought to protect pregnant females from third parties providing dangerous abortions," the judge wrote. "As a result, most states' abortion laws traditionally criminalized the behavior of third parties to protect the health of pregnant women — they did not punish women for obtaining an abortion. By punishing women, Idaho's abortion statute is therefore unusual." Click below for a full report from AP reporters Rebecca Boone and Todd Dvorak.

Reproductive Parity bill passes

OLYMPIA — On a mostly party-line vote, the House passed the Reproductive Parity Act, sending it to the Senate on a 53-43 vote.

Both sides argued that they were defending "choice." Supporters said women should have medical insurance that allows them to choose abortion, regardless of their employer's religious believes.

Opponents said women who oppose abortion should be able to choose a medical plan that does not pay for abortions.

Reproductive Parity bill debate: whose choice being taken away?

OLYMPIA The Reproductive Parity Act is a "simple, technical fix", its sponsor said in introducing the debate. It doesn't change anything right now, but it would protect the right to choose abortion if that becomes a problem under the federal Health Care Act changes.

Rep. Eileen Cody, D-West Seattle, the chairwoman of the House Health Care Committee, downplayed the significance of the bill, while Republicans blasted it as "anti-choice.

Rep. Shelly Short, R-Addy, said it takes away her right to choose a medical plan without abortion coverage: "Under Obamacare, there is a requirement that one plan be offered that not cover abortion. Medicaid right now covers abortion…Voluntarily, insurance companies provide that coverage. Organizations provide that cover… "We have very few options in my district…That (Obamacare) plan would not be available."

Washington doesn't force doctors to perform abortion or prescribe lethal drugs if it goes against their conscience, and shouldn't force businesses to cut maternity care because they oppose abortion, other Republicans said. Choosing an abortion may be a constitutional right, but other people shouldn't be forced to pay for exercising that right any more than they should be required to buy someone a gun to exercise Second Amendment rights.

Women want to be able to make their own decision about their lives and their bodies…They do not want some bureaucrat in an insurance company telling them how to make their decisions, Rep. Steve Tharinger, D-Dungeness, said. We are empowering women to follow their conscience."

If women have the intelligence and capablity to determine whether to abort a pregnancy…why would we choose to take away my choice not to," Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton, said.

Reproductive Parity debate starts

OLYMPIA — Debate over the Reproductive Parity bill starts after a pair of caucus meetings. First up, a call for a Republican amendment with a "conscience clause" to be inserted into the bill.

That allows an organization to keep from offering abortion as part of its medical coverage if it has a religious objection to it. It passes unanimously.  

Democrats then offered an even broader amendment with a more encompassing conscience clause. It passes 52-44.

"We are not changing anything in the conscience clause," Rep Eileen Cody says. 

Some opponents of the bill are sporting white, looped ribbons on their lapels or jackets. Supporters have lapel buttons that say "Privacy, Justice, Freedom."

WA Lege Day 40: Abortion debate on tap, and it’s cut-off day

OLYMPIA — The House is expected to debate the Reproductive Parity Act this morning, likely passing a bill over to the Senate that Republicans in that chamber have worked very hard to ignore.

The RPA, as some folks call it, would require any insurance plan that offers maternity care to also cover abortion. Supporters say it's an issue of fairness for women's health options; opponents say it forces people who oppose abortion to pay for others who have one through their health plan.

Both sides are sporting lapel decorations to signal their support, and it could be the most contentious House debate of the session thus far. The galleries are filling up in anticipation; and since everyone drove through pretty nasty weather to get here, one can only hope they aren't disappointed.

Three identical bills were introduced in the Senate, but none got a hearing as the leaders of the Law and Justice and Health Care committees both refused to hear the bills. That put Coalition Health Care Chairwoman Randi Becker has said, however, if the House passes its version, she will hold a hearing.

Elsewhere, there will be a scramble to get"policy" bills out of their first committee today, which is a cut-off day. Translation: Those that don't get out may as well get Last Rites, because they are all but dead.

For a list of today's hearings, go inside the blog.

WA Lege Day 26: Parity Bill hearing canceled

OLYMPIA — A hearing on a proposal to require insurance companies to cover abortion services if they cover live births was cancelled this morning, a few days after the committee chairman said he would hear the bill even though he didn't support it.

The Reproductive Parity bill was among several proposals on the schedule for the Senate Law and Justice Committee, which earlier this week held a two-hour hearing on a bill on the other side of the abortion issue which would require parental notification for any minor seeking an abortion.

Committee Chairman Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, announced on Monday he was scheduling the Friday morning  hearing, adding that didn't mean he supported it. Padden is a longtime opponent of abortion and a co-sponsor of the parental notification bill. At the time he said the Reproductive Parity bill had problems that would become clear in the hearing.

The committee did meet, discussing bills on boating safety, adding judges in the Tri-Cities and defining subpoena power for the state auditor.

Abortion bills have the potential for splitting the coalition of 23 Republicans and two Democrats who form the majority in the Senate. Majority Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina, who supports abortion rights, said earlier this week that he didn't support the parental notification bill, but the hearing was the first on the oft-proposed measure in 10 years. Holding a hearing on that measure showed the coaltion was willing to debate issues that had been "bottled up" by the previous Democratic majority, he said. 

At the time, Tom also noted that the Reproductive Parity bill had been scheduled for today's hearing, and said the hearings would "get us away from demonization" of the two sides on the issue.

"Let's have that debate," he said.

Padden said this morning he decided to cancel the Reproductive Parity bill because he believes it would jeopardize federal funding and invite lawsuits if it became law. An identical bill has been referred to the Health Care Committee 

"I never was a fan of the bill to begin with and I worked hard to defeat it last year," Padden said of a similar measure that died when time ran out for a deadline to pass bills. 

After the bill was abruptly pulled from the Law and Justice hearing calendar, Tom reportedly told the Associated Press it was not determined when or where the bill might be heard. An identical bill is before the Senate Health Committee, but is not expected to get a hearing there, either. A similar bill has been heard in the House and is expected to pass that chamber.

Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, the sponsor of the Reproductive Parity bill that was pulled from Friday's hearing schedule, said he was frustrated by Padden's refusal to hear the bill.

But Hobbs said Tom has "given me his word that we're going to hear it. I'm going to give him the opportunity to get it right." 

One Democratic source said an option could be for Senate leaders to reassign the bill to the Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee, because it involves a regulation for insurance companies.

The chairman of that committee is Hobbs.