On Monday, Jan. 24, the Healthcare and Wellness Committee held a hearing regarding HB 1366 (the euphemistically named “Limited Service Pregnancy Center Accountability Act”), a bill brought by Planned Parenthood, Legal Voice, NARAL and NOW, as they admit in their own press releases.
Though the hearing began at 1:30 p.m., by the time I arrived at 11:00 a.m., there were already nearly 100 people sporting “I Love Pregnancy Resource Centers” buttons. By noon, that number had swelled to over 250, and by the time of the hearing, there were over 500 people gathered in opposition to the bill, lining the hallways and standing outside in the off-again on-again drizzle.
In support of the bill, there were maybe 10 or so people wearing pink Planned Parenthood t-shirts, and another 40 or so sporting big red stickers claiming to support healthcare and privacy rights for women.
About 1:00 p.m., we were informed that the committee chair said that only 60 supporters from each side were to be allowed inside the hearing room, despite the disparate numbers. The hearing would run for one hour and testimony would be given by 4 panels (2 from each side). Each panel would have 10 minutes; in the remaining 20 minutes or so, others would be able to voice their opposition or support of the bill. (By the time the panels had finished however, there was no time left for other testimony.)
The panels from those supporting the bill were comprised of Planned Parenthood advocates and interns, attorneys (from Legal Voice and the ACLU), a retired United Methodist minister, and two women who alleged they were harassed and denied test results. Notably absent were facts and anything other than hearsay; nor was any reason given why the onerous requirements of this legislation should apply to one – and only one – type of entity, and not across the board.
The panels opposed to the bill were comprised of pregnancy resource center directors, attorneys not affiliated with the PRCs or their umbrella agency, as well as women who maintained they were grateful to the PRCs and had nothing but positive experiences with them. A thick binder and 3 boxes of exit surveys given to clients of PRCs across the state provided proof that those served by the PRCs were happy with the way their needs were handled.
Many of those not able to get into the hearing room went to the gallery to watch the hearing as it was broadcast on TVW. Whenever the pro-Pregnancy Resource Center panel spoke, there was spontaneous applause in the gallery; when the Planned Parenthood panel spoke, there was silence.
In summary, this bill creates significant liability for non-profit, faith-based pregnancy centers that receive no tax dollars and provide over $18 million in free services to pregnant women in Washington simply because they do not offer abortion services. The stated reason is that they are afraid that women who are looking for an abortion will go to a PRC. I am not sure why the Washington State legislature is required to prevent that. Nor do I know (as testimony certainly wasn’t provided) where the 62,000 women served by PRCs at no cost to either the government or themselves are supposed to go, or where the over $18 million for these services is supposed to come from given the current economic circumstances.
If this had been a debate, the pro-Pregnancy Resource Center panels would have won hands down. Unfortunately, this isn’t a debate, so please contact the committee members and your legislators to keep this from getting out of committee.
Text of the bill can be found here: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/summary.aspx?bill=1366&year=2011.
Video of the hearing can be found here: http://www.tvw.org/media/mediaplayer.cfm?EvId=2011010201&bhcp=1
Let your voice be heard. Call (1-800-562-6000) and write your legislators.Tell your legislators to oppose HB 1366 / SB 5274. Women should have REAL choices.
LifeNews.com Note: Lisa-Ann Oliver is an administrative assistant at Human Life of Washington.