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Legislative Session Halftime Report

Yesterday, the 59th day of the legislative session, was the halfway point of the legislative process and the deadline to get bills out of the house of origin. Any bills that were not passed out of the chamber in which they were introduced are most likely dead for this year.

Here is a quick look at the bills that we have been tracking and where they stand.


Parental Notification for Abortion
SB 5289 (Likely Dead)

This bill, which would require parents to be notified before a minor receives an abortion, passed out of the Senate Law and Justice Committee and the Rules Committee. However, it was not brought to a vote on the Senate floor.

This was the furthest parental notification has advanced in years, thanks to the dedicated efforts of Sen. Mike Padden who sponsored the bill and many of you who contacted your legislators about this issue.

Despite strong public support for parental notification, only twenty-four senators indicated their willingness to support it.  That total included twenty two Republicans and two Democrats, Sen. Jim Hargrove and Sen. Tim Sheldon, that latter caucuses with the Republicans. Twenty-five votes are necessary to pass a bill in the Senate. Republican Senators Andy Hill, Joe Fain, and Steve Litzow either opposed or were unwilling to support the bill.


Abortion Insurance Mandate
HB 1647 (Passed House, moved to Senate)

This bill was a slightly modified version of a bill that has passed the House but has been defeated in the Senate each of the last three years. Like the other bills, it sought to require every private insurance policy in Washington State to cover abortion.

This bill passed out of the House Health Care and Wellness Committee and passed the House on party lines with the exceptions of Republican Rep. Chad Magendanz, who voted in favor and Democrat Rep. Chris Hurst, who voted against it.

The bill is once again expected to die in the Senate.


Sexual Orientation Change Therapy
SB 5870, HB 1972 (Passed the Senate, moved to House)

These bills initially attempted to make it professional misconduct for a therapist to help a minor with unwanted same-sex attraction. While House bill 1972 never advanced, Senate bill 5870 was amended in committee to prohibit only aversive therapies like ice baths and shock therapies for minors in all circumstances.

The bill no longer attempts to regulate speech between therapists and patients, nor does it any longer seek to prevent clients from receiving the kind of therapy they want. The behavior it purports to prohibit is probably already prohibited by professional rules, criminal law, or both.

However, by passing this bill, it eliminates the argument that it is necessary to ban all forms of therapy to help kids with unwanted same-sex attraction in an attempt to protect kids from aversive therapies.

With these changes, SB 5870 passed the Senate without opposition and is expected to pass the House as well.


Eliminating Immunization Exemptions
HB 2009 (Likely Dead)

Current law allows children to be exempted from the immunization requirements for health reasons, religious reasons, or for the personal objection of the parents. This bill would have eliminated the personal objection exemption, which is cited in seventy percent of the cases in which exemptions are granted.

The bill passed the House Health Care and Wellness Committee, but was not brought up for a vote before the deadline.


Telemedicine/Webcam Abortions
SB 5175 (Passed the Senate, moves to the House)

This bill would facilitate payment for medicine provided remotely through webcam consultations. While generally uncontroversial in principle, prior versions of the bill would have made it possible for the abortion industry to use this technology to prescribe chemical abortions remotely. This would be particularly problematic  in Washington State which lacks a parental notification requirement. There was concern that children would be receiving abortion drugs without their parents awareness while the medical professionals were hundreds of miles away.

The bill was amended in committee so that reimbursement for telemedicine is available only for essential benefits under the Affordable Care Act, which does not include abortions.

With that change, the bill passed the Senate without opposition and is expected to pass the House.


Requiring Informed Consent for Assisted Suicide
SB 5919 (Passed Senate, moves to the House)

This bill would require that a patient be advised of all treatment options and possibilities for cure before being given a prescription for drugs intended to end their life.

The surprisingly controversial measure passed the Senate 34-14 and now moves to the House for a vote.


Making it Easier for Religious Objectors to Opt-Out of Unions
SB 5552 (Likely Dead)

This bill would make it easier for those who are religious objectors to union membership to opt out of funding causes they disagree. It would remove the unions power to direct which charities receive the money that would otherwise go to the union in the form of union dues.

The bill passed the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee but was not brought up for consideration on the Senate floor.


Prohibiting Wrongful Life Lawsuits
SB 5747 (Likely Dead)

This bill would eliminate lawsuits by parents who claim they were injured by the failure to diagnose a birth defect that led to the birth of a child they otherwise would have aborted.

This bill had a hearing in the Senate Law and Justice committee but did not make it out of committee.


Other Bills of Note

Three other bills we were tracking did not have a hearing and are now considered to be dead bills. They are:

  1. A bill to require every employer to provide objectionable contraceptives in their employee health plans (SB 5026, HB 1502)
  2. A bill that would give grandparents the right to petition the court for visitation with their grandchildren over the objection of the parents (SB 5005)
  3. A bill that would clarify that life begins at conception (HB 1687)


While it is unfortunate that parental notification was not passed by the Senate, it did advance further than it has in more than a decade. Efforts to mandate abortion insurance, ban therapy that helps minors with unwanted same-sex attraction, facilitate webcam abortions, and taking away parental control of the decision to immunize have been stopped.

Thousands of people from every corner of Washington State have contributed to the results so far. Your participation in the process makes a tremendous difference.

That being said, nothing in the legislature is final until the legislators go home. Bills have been designated as “likely dead” because any legislative issue can be resurrected at any time if the political will exists. During the second half of the session, bills that failed to pass on their own are often proposed as amendments to other bills dealing with the same or similar issue.

Whether you are supporting or opposing an idea, continue to communicate your thoughts with your legislators by emailing them and calling them at the legislative hotline at 1-800-562-6000.

For more details on all of these bills click here.

Remember, the legislature is the thermometer, the people are the thermostat. If you don’t like the temperature, change it.

Thank you for making a difference.

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