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UPDATE – Bill guaranteeing abortion coverage in health insurance plans looks doomed in state Senate

Post by Brad Shannon / The Olympian on Feb. 15, 2013 at 6:24 pm with No Comments »
February 18, 2013 1:30 pm

One way or another, a bill requiring health insurance policies to include abortion coverage if they also cover maternity will get heard in the Senate Health Care Committee. It just won’t happen before next week’s Feb. 22 deadline for passing bills out of committee, Republican Sen. Randi Becker of Eatonville says.

Becker, who chairs the Senate committee, said she will hear the House version of the so-called Reproductive Parity Act once the House approves it in a floor vote and it is sent over to the Senate.

Becker said in an interview late Friday that she and Rep. Eileen Cody, the Democrat who chairs the House Health Care and Wellness Committee, went through bills earlier in session to avoid duplicating each others’ efforts. The upshot, Becker said, is she’ll catch Cody’s bill probably  soon after it passes the House sometime in the next month.

20130213_LegWA_0070ab - hobbs fain litzow tom
Sens. Steve Hobbs, Joe Fain, Steve Litzow and Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom confer on the Senate floor Feb. 13. Photo courtesy of the Washington state Legislature.

“The vehicle will be the House bill. What happens with that bill (after the hearing), I don’t know,’’ Becker said, adding that she “guaranteed I would hear the bill.’’

Becker’s comments come as a third version of the measure, Senate Bill 5798, was introduced and referred to her committee Friday. Cody’s measure, HB 1044, awaits a floor vote in the other chamber.

The latest Senate version of the abortion bill is co-sponsored by Democratic Sen. Steve Hobbs of Lake Stevens and Republican Sen. Steve Litzow of Mercer Island – who moderates who are scheduled to join Gov. Jay Inslee in speaking to the annual Reproductive Health and Rights Lobby Day rally at 12:30 p.m. Monday on the Capitol steps.

It looks like the sponsoring groups – Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and NARAL Pro-Choice Washington – have their work cut out for themselves if they want the Senate to act on the legislation.

Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler of Ritzville told the Seattle Times’ Andrew Garber on Thursday he didn’t think the abortion measure – or a gun control measure requiring background checks for gun purchasers – would get floor votes in the Senate. Schoesler explained that his caucus has enough votes on the Rules Committee to block both from the floor.

Garber quoted Schoesler as saying, “I would rather see our time focused on how we get to a four-year balanced budget, how we reform K-12, what we do about higher education.”

The Times also quoted Inslee as saying that Schoesler’s comments were “a fairly pathetic excuse” for not moving the measure.

If Schoesler is right, the Senate Republicans’ alliance could use the abortion measure, which also failed to pass in the 2012 session, as a bargaining chip. Schoesler’s caucus wants the House to move on bills unpopular with Democrats.

But it also might indicate that the Majority Coalition Caucus, which has 23 Republicans and two Democrats, is feeling internal strain around this issue. Up to now, the alliance has kept a solid front without cracking.

The moves on SB 5798 are only the latest in a series of twists and turns over the whole abortion issue, which drew a big crowd when Cody’s bill was heard in the House Health Care Committee last month.

Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, had put out a press release on Feb. 4 saying he’d have a hearing later that week on an earlier version of the abortion bill. Padden did hold a hearing on a  parental notification bill dealing with teens who get abortions, which in its draft form had errant language from the code reviser that would have eliminated abortion rights from state law.

Padden later backed out of the commitment to hear the abortion insurance bill, Becker said.

In recent days, Schoesler and Tom insisted the Reproductive Parity bill would get a hearing, implying it would be before next week’s cutoff for passing policy bills out of their committee of origin.

UPDATE to original Feb. 15 post clarifies that  errors in the abortion-notification bill were from the Code Reviser’s Office and removes implication that Padden heard that notice bill in lieu of the Reproductive Parity Act. It also adds attribution that Becker said Padden backed out of hearing the parity bill.


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