Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Results of the Pregnancy Center Bill Hearing

Hundreds of people tried to attend yesterday's public hearing in Olympia on HB 1366, one of the bills attacking pregnancy centers.  An exact head count was unavailable, but people packed the committee room and the hallways nearby, according to Jim Morishima, a staff member providing legal counsel to the committee.  He said he didn't know how many represented either side of the issue.

A local activist posted today that people opposing the bill outnumbered those in favor, by about 10-1; but again, there is no official head count.

(For background on this issue, see my blog post, "Attacking a Woman's Right to Choose".)

House Health Care & Wellness Committee Chair, Rep. Eileen Cody (D-34th District), limited the hearing to one hour and asked the crowd to designate representatives to testify (two panels of people in favor, two panels opposed).  No action was taken after the public hearing.  HOWEVER, I've heard two things I cannot confirm independently:
  • Rep. Cody may try to vote this out of committee on Friday; and
  • the bill has been or will be amended to exactly match the Senate version, which would move it more quickly through the system.  A check of the bill's history doesn't show this action, but that doesn't mean it isn't in the works.

What's next for the bill?  It could die in committee, which is what it deserves.  The committee could also vote to send it forward to the House of Representatives for consideration.  A third option, very rare, is that the bill would die but then be resurrected and brought out of committee by a majority vote of the House.

Meanwhile, the companion bill in the Senate, SB 5274, may appear on next week's Senate Health & Long Term Care Committee agenda for consideration, but nothing has been set, according to staffer Brittany Yunker.

If you care about this issue, immediately write an email or make phone calls.  Here's how to approach this in both the House and Senate:

The House Version, HB 1366:

To get your opinion on the record, you have three options:
  • Phone the Committee members.  You'll find their contact information here.  Leave a message but they may not be able to get back to you.
  • Email your comments to staff member Jim Morishima at morishima.jim@leg.wa.gov, addressed to the House Health Care & Wellness Committee, and it will get into the official file.

The Senate Version,  SB 5274:

  • Watch for the public hearing announcement.  If there is a hearing you can testify live and in person (or be among the throng of people in the hallway).
  • Phone the committee members.  You'll find their contact information here.  Again, it would be surprising if you got a call back, given the volume of calls they're likely to get.  Do it anyway.
  • Email your comments to staffer Brittany Yunker at yunker.brittany@leg.wa.gov, addressed to the committee.  She will route the comments to the members.
Let's keep each other posted on this issue.

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