Benton’s abortion notification bill gains support

A bill that would require physicians to notify parents when a daughter, 17 or younger, is going to get an abortion has strong support from conservatives in the Senate. Opponents of the bill say it’s written in a way that would undercut abortion rights for all women in the state.

Senate Bill 5156, sponsored by state Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, will be granted a public hearing in the Senate Law and Justice Committee, the committee’s chairman, Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, said in a statement today.

“If your daughter became pregnant and was considering an abortion, wouldn’t you want to know far enough ahead of time to talk with her about it or get ready to care for her afterward?” Padden said.

According to the text of the bill, “immature minors often lack the ability to make fully informed choices.”

If the bill becomes law, abortion providers would need to tell at least one parent or guardian, either by phone or in person, that their daughter is going to get an abortion. That notification must be made at least 48 hours before the abortion.

If the patient wants to waive the parental notification requirement, she would have to go to court. The patient would have to prove that she is mature enough to make a decision about abortion, or that there is a good reason her parents should not be notified, including abuse at home.

The bill is co-sponsored by 17 other senators, including Ann Rivers, R-La Center; John Braun, R-Centralia; and Curtis King, R-Yakima. If the bill makes it out of the Senate, which has a conservative majority, it would need to be approved in the House, which has a Democratic majority.

Jennifer Allen, director of public policy for Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest, said that hidden within the bill is language that would repeal voter Initiative 120. That ballot measure, approved by voters in 1991, declared that women have the right to a physician-performed abortion until their fetus is able to survive outside the womb.

The bill “seeks to criminalize all abortions for women of any age,” she said. Furthermore, “the intention of this bill is to bully and shame both abortion providers ad the women who are faced with the … decision about whether to end their pregnancy.”

Allen said most teens already involve their parents in their pregnancy decisions, and those who don’t come from bad home situations. It’s unlikely that troubled, pregnant teens will be able to navigate the court system, and they might decide to run away from home or to try to end their pregnancy in an unsafe way, she said.

The bill also redefines abortion, adding the language “death of the unborn child.”

Current state law defines an abortion as “any medical treatment intended to induce the termination of a pregnancy except for the purpose of producing a live birth.”

Senate Bill 5156 defines abortion as: “the act of using or prescribing any instrument, medicine, drug, or any other substance, device, or means with the intent to terminate the clinically diagnosable pregnancy of a woman with knowledge that the termination by those means will with reasonable likelihood cause the death of the unborn child.”

You can read the entire bill here.

This post has been updated to add viewpoints from opponents of the legislation.

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