Updated: In a warm-up to the April 1 Senate hearing on an important abortion rights bill, two anti-abortion groups released a poll Thursday showing the public is only dimly aware of the Reproductive Parity Act. And once details of the legislation are explained, a 50 percent majority is opposed.
The groups hired Elway Research for the proprietary poll. See Stuart Elway‘s results here. The survey of 412 voters during Feb. 28 to March 2 had an error margin of 5 percent. Key finding: the opposition led the proponents by a 50 percent to 42 percent margin when asked if they agreed: “All health insurance plans should be required to provide coverage for abortion, even if the company or person buying the insurance would prefer not to have coverage for abortion.”
The state House passed House Bill 1044, also known as the Reproductive Parity Act, on a near partisan-line vote last month, and the Republican-led Senate for weeks resisted giving a hearing to the bill backed by Gov. Jay Inslee and reproductive rights groups.
Eventually Republican Sen. Randi Becker of Eatonville, who chairs the Senate Health Care Committee, said she’ll give a hearing at 10 a.m. April 1 and both sides in the dispute are gearing up to testify. Becker initially planned to hear the bill earlier in March but told The Olympian the decision came after discussions with leadership.
It is not clear she’ll even bring up the bill for a vote, which could doom the legislation for the second year running – even though state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler now says it is needed long term to ensure access to abortion services in health plans that also cover maternity.
The April date is also just before the deadline for moving bills off the floor of the opposite chamber in which they were introduced. The bill cutoff makes it easier for Republicans, who dominate the Senate Majority Coalition that has 25 seats in the Senate, to block the bill, and Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler of Ritzville has said he has the votes to do that.
The House floor vote was divisive and only three lawmakers crossed over to vote opposite their caucuses.
Human Life of Washington and the Family Policy Institute of Washington put out statements today on the poll, which they commissioned.
Said Dan Kennedy, chief executive for Human Life: “The public simply does not share the Governor’s belief that coercing people to buy abortion insurance is one of the state’s priorities. Nor do they share his belief that this is good policy.”
Said Joseph Backholm of the FPIW: ”Despite enormous budget problems and a challenging economic climate, our Governor and leaders in the House are allowing their priorities to be determined by the special interests that fund their elections rather than the priorities of citizens in Washington.”
Two members of the Senate majority – Republican Steve Litzow of Mercer Island and Democrat Rodney Tom of Medina – and Inslee spoke in favor of the bill during a reproductive rights rally earlier during the legislative session. Believing there is a majority in the Senate supporting the bill, Inslee said the Senate leaders should not stand in the way of democracy and block a floor vote.
The polling relied on an interesting mix of voters that could draw criticism in a state where Democrats arguably have a clear upper hand. Elway’s sample had 30 percent Democratic voters, 24 percent Republican and 41 percent independent. The measure did not appear to test whether the survey pool also supported abortion rights, which Washington voters have done at the polls previously.