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Friday, October 23, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Bill Would Toughen Abortion Notification Sheahan Wants Criminal Penalties Against Doctors

Associated Press

A Senate bill requiring a parent to be notified before his or her minor daughter gets an abortion is not tough enough and should include criminal penalties for the doctor, the chairman of the House Law and Justice Committee said Tuesday.

Rep. Larry Sheahan, R-Rosalia, said he plans to reintroduce a tougher House bill by adding it as an amendment to the Senate bill. He said he expects the amended bill to clear his committee this week.

Sheahan’s committee heard testimony Tuesday on Senate Bill 5255, which cleared the Senate by a one-vote margin last month. It was watered down from the original measure, which required both parents to be notified and said that doctors who disobeyed the requirement could be charged with a gross misdemeanor.

Instead, the bill allows the girl, or a designated friend, to ask a judge for an exemption from notifying just one parent. A judge may waive notification if the girl is “sufficiently mature” and the abortion would be in the minor’s best interest.

Opponents say the measure would increase back-alley abortions and that family closeness can’t be legislated. But those in favor said every other significant medical procedure for a minor needs a parent’s signature and an abortion should be no different.

Sheahan wants to reinstate the criminal penalties for doctors and require physicians to submit monthly reports to the state. The Department of Health would compile an annual report on notices issued and exceptions made.

Rep. Jeri Costa, D-Marysville, said a girl might be too intimidated to talk to a judge about an abortion, and might wait until it was too late and be forced to carry the fetus to term.

“When I was 16, I was terrified to go in front of a judge and talk about a traffic ticket,” Costa said.

Mina Halperin, a 17-year-old junior at Tumwater High School, said she didn’t understand how adults could not trust a girl to make a decision to have an abortion, yet they would trust her to raise a child.

“Ideally, all families would communicate with each other,” she said. “However, not all families are like mine.” She said she was concerned that if the bill passed, girls would turn to back-alley abortions, would induce an abortion by using drugs and alcohol, or try to kill themselves.

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