The state Democratic Party may be gunning for Democratic Sen. Rodney Tom for joining up with Senate Republicans to form a conservative coalition that
controls the Washington Senate this year. But advocates at a reproductive rights rally on the Capitol steps today gave Tom and Republican Sen. Steve Litzow of Mercer Island a big hand today as each took a turn with Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee to speak.
Tom thanked the crowd of about 250 activists and said, “That’s why I’m down here making sure my 17-year-old daughter has the kind of protections that we need in Washington state and that all of our kids have those same kind of protections.”
But Tom gave no hint how he and other abortion-rights supporters plan to get around a likely Senate blockage in Rules Committee that would kill any effort to pass the Reproductive Parity Act this year. Senate Bill 5798 and House Bill 1044 both would require health insurers to cover abortion procedures if the policy also covers maternity, and the bills have drawn opposition from conservative and religious groups that claim it forces consumers to buy abortion coverage.
Asked by a reporter whether the bills could get a Senate floor vote, Litzow said before the rally, “That’s a good question.” He indicated he would work on coalition members to let it out for a floor vote – once the House version of the bill goes to the Senate.
The appearances of Litzow and Tom at the rally underscored the fault lines of their coalition, which has been firm so far but has just a one-vote majority in the Senate. Many of its 23 Republican members are strong opponents of abortion, and some are pushing for a bill that would require parental notifications when teens seek abortions.
In his short talk, Tom praised family planning as a smart public investment, telling the rally, “When I look at family planning, there is no more fiscally conservative idea out there.”
Litzow also got applause when he introduced himself as a pro-choice Republican.
But as I reported Friday, the parity bills are in real danger of dying this year.
Republican Sen. Mike Padden declined to hear the bill after putting out a press release saying he would. Then on Friday, Republican Sen. Randi Becker said she will hear the House version of the bill once the House passes it over.
Democratic Rep. Laurie Jinkins of Tacoma told the rally that vote is going to take place this week and if necessary the House will vote the abortion-coverage bill “again and again and again and again” until it passes.
Gov. Inslee, who campaigned last year as an unabashed supporter of abortion rights, stood with his wife, Trudi. He fired up the crowd saying Washington voters were the first in the country to affirm abortion rights at the polls and he expects the state to uphold the values of what he described as its “heritage.”
“Washington state doesn’t just deserve a hearing on the Reproductive Parity Act. It deserves a vote in the state Senate on the Reproductive Parity Act. We are gonna insist it,” Inslee said. “We are not going to let anybody close the door to democracy in this state. And democracy means we get a vote this year on the Reproductive Parity Act. I’m going to make sure that happens.”
Again, Inslee didn’t make clear how that will happen either.