Political Beat

Abortion notification bill clears committee

A bill that would require an underage girl’s parent or guardian be notified before she can have an abortion won the endorsement of a Senate committee this week.

Senate Bill 5156, first introduced last year by state Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, cleared the Senate Law and Justice Committee. The proposal was originally co-signed by 17 other senators, almost all of them Republicans. Among the other sponsors is Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center.

The bill would require that at least one parent or guardian receives 48 hours’ notice before a girl 17 or younger gets an abortion. A pregnant minor would have to ask a superior court to waive that requirement. Notification would not be needed in the case of a medical emergency, according to the bill.

In 2013, a public hearing on the same bill drew dozens of people representing a wide range of beliefs on the controversial subject. Supporters said parents have to provide their consent before their children do a host of other things — like taking a field trip, getting a piercing or receiving medication — so it makes sense to include abortion on that list. Some backers detailed their own struggles after getting an abortion.

Opponents noted that most teens already include their parents in their pregnancy decisions, and many who would keep an abortion secret come from dysfunctional family situations. Troubled teens may be prone to seek an illegal abortion rather than try to waive the notification requirement in court, they said.

The bill has even drawn the attention of Gov. Jay Inslee, who opposes it.

Benton said last year that S.B. 5156 is not about trying to stop abortions. “It is about bringing families closer together,” he said.

It’s unclear whether the bill will be able to clear the full Senate this year. But even if it does, it likely faces long odds in the Democratic-controlled House.

Eric Florip

I'm the environment/transportation reporter for The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Wash. Contact me at eric.florip@columbian.com or 360-735-4541.

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