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Abortion notification bill will get hearing in Senate

Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, addresses a crowd of anti-abortion activists gathered on the steps of the state Capitol Tuesday. (Jim Camden)
Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, addresses a crowd of anti-abortion activists gathered on the steps of the state Capitol Tuesday. (Jim Camden)

OLYMPIA – A proposed law requiring parents to be notified of an abortion for any girl under 18 will get a hearing in a Senate committee this year, and possibly a full debate and floor vote.

State Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, told a cheering crowd of anti-abortion activists Tuesday that a parental notification bill will get the first Senate hearing in years sometime during the next few weeks.

“You have to keep up the fight,” he told demonstrators at the annual March for Life, who filled the steps of the Capitol and the steps of the Temple of Justice across the flag plaza. The Washington State Patrol estimated the crowd at more than 2,000.

Padden is a co-sponsor of the bill and chairman of the Law and Justice Committee, which has jurisdiction over the bill, so a hearing is a sure thing. The committee’s membership also includes other strong abortion opponents such as Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, who told the cheering crowd that parental notification for a medical procedure was logical. Minors can’t get tattoos in Washington, even with their parents’ permission, she said.

Last week, Republican leaders of the House and Senate criticized Gov. Jay Inslee’s call for passage of the Reproductive Parity Act, which would require all insurance plans that cover live births to cover abortions also. At the time, they said they thought the Legislature should focus on the budget rather than on “politically divisive issues.”

“Social issues right now are not as important as getting people back to work,” said House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis.

The parental notification bill involves the same politically divisive issue as the Reproductive Parity Act, albeit from the opposite side of the spectrum. But Padden said it also involves the issue of parents’ rights, and that while the budget will continue to be the Legislature’s primary focus, it has time to tackle other issues.

Sen. Rodney Tom, the Medina Democrat who heads the coalition majority, has said “it’s up to the committee chairmen” to decide what bills to hear, Padden added. Once out of the Law and Justice Committee, it would go to the floor if approved by the Senate Rules Committee, which has many Republicans opposed to abortion. Tom, who is on the Rules Committee, supports abortion rights and has said the coalition “won’t turn back the clock on social issues.”

The House has a similar parental notification bill, sponsored by Rep. Matt Shea, another Spokane Valley Republican, as well as a bill that would declare that “the right to life begins at the moment the individual comes into being.” But with a strong Democratic majority in charge of that chamber, Padden said, “I can’t imagine they’ll get a hearing.”

Shea told demonstrators they must be ready to stand up against abortion. “Life is the foundation of freedom,” he said.

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