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Washington Senate panel takes up parent notification for teen abortions

UPDATED: Thu., Jan. 26, 2017

This 2016 file photo shows the Legislative Building at dusk at the Capitol in Olympia. House Democrats on Monday released a two-year budget plan that proposes $3 billion in additional revenue. (Ted S. Warren / Associated Press file)
This 2016 file photo shows the Legislative Building at dusk at the Capitol in Olympia. House Democrats on Monday released a two-year budget plan that proposes $3 billion in additional revenue. (Ted S. Warren / Associated Press file)

OLYMPIA – A perennial proposal to require Washington minors to notify parents before getting an abortion drew familiar support and opposition Thursday, and may wind up with the same fate as last year’s proposal: getting partway through the Legislature, then dying.

It’s almost certain to pass a Senate committee, where its sponsor, Spokane Valley Republican Mike Padden, is the chairman. It has a much tougher road to pass the full Senate and the Democratic-led House.

Testimony in the Law and Justice Committee started in Spokane, where a supporter and an opponent of the bill were lined up through the teleconference system, something lawmakers are doing more frequently this year to expand the range of their hearings and save some interested citizens the trip to Olympia.

David DeWolf, a Gonzaga Law School professor emeritus and unsuccessful candidate last year for the state Supreme Court, said 38 other states have some form of parental notification or consent, and courts have upheld those laws. The proposal, which requires at least one parent or a guardian to be notified 48 hours before a minor receives an abortion, has “common sense exceptions” for medical emergencies, minors who are emancipated from their parents or minors requesting a court order for cases of incest.

The Rev. Andy CastroLang, of Westminster United Church of Christ, called the proposal a cruel and ineffective intrusion into a wrenching decision, and any attempt to compare it to the state law requiring parental notification to pierce a minor’s ear was “slanderous.”

“There are young girls who can count on being slapped by their mother and called a whore, or locked in a closet by their father and called damaged goods” if they tell parents of an unplanned pregnancy,” CastroLang said.

Back in the nearly full Olympia hearing room, physicians dueled over the effects of the proposal. Sharon Quick, a pediatrician, said recent research shows teen brains haven’t developed enough to have good decision-making ability and have poor impulse control.

“Adolescents have a real need for adult guidance,” Quick said.

Lindsey Benson, an obstetrician and gynecologist, said the provisions could cause a delay that endangers a patient’s health. She said she explains all the options but leaves the decision to the patient.

“Ultimately, I trust my patients,” said Benson, adding studies show a pregnant teen is 24 times more likely to die in childbirth than from an abortion.

With all four of the panel’s majority Republicans as cosponsors of the bill, it’s expected to easily pass out of committee when it comes up for a vote. But the GOP holds only a one-vote majority in the Senate, where several of their members support abortion rights, so it would have a more difficult time passing or even getting a vote there.

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