Washington Votes Thursday on Bill Attacking Pregnancy Centers

State   |   Joseph Backholm   |   Feb 9, 2011   |   11:00AM   |   Olympia, WA

This Thursday, February 10th at 10am, the House Healthcare & Wellness Committee is scheduled to take executive action on HB 1366, a bill that would place significant legal liabilities on pregnancy resource centers because they do not perform or refer for abortion.

Since the committee had a public hearing on the bill, a federal court judge has thrown out a similar law in Baltimore that required pregnancy resource centers to post the fact that they do not perform abortions in their waiting rooms. The judge said that requirement violated their First Amendment rights by compelling them to include a government message.

HB 1366 is significantly more onerous than the law in Baltimore. It requires them to post not only that they do not provide or refer for abortion, but that they do not provide medical care for pregnant women. That requirement would be particularly troublesome for the centers that are staffed by doctors and nurses that provide medical care to pregnant women.

Because of this and many other deficiencies in the legislation, it is expected that the bill that is voted on Thursday will be significantly different from the bill that was heard in committee. But as of late Tuesday afternoon, the bill that will be voted on has not been made public.

Regardless, the revised bill will almost certainly require pro-life pregnancy centers to post a list of the services they do not provide. In addition, that requirement will only apply to counseling centers that do not provide or refer for abortion, as is the case in the current bill.

As a result, all the regulations and the liabilities in this bill can be avoided simply by making the decision to provide or refer for abortions. If liability can be avoided simply by changing your position on abortion, it seems obvious that the primary purpose of the bill is not to provide protections to women but to create legal liability for those who are pro-life.

You are encouraged to contact your legislators through the legislative hotline at 1-800-562-6000 and ask them to oppose HB 1366 and SB 5274.