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Guest Editorial At The Stranger: Furious About Hobby Lobby? Take Back The Washington State Senate!
7/10/2014

By Rachel Berkson, Executive Director & Judy Nicastro, Former City Councilmember

Last week's Supreme Court decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby left us dismayed, furious, and determined to push back. As advocates of reproductive rights, we believe strongly that women’s basic human rights should come before a corporation’s objections, however sincerely held they may be. This decision sets a dangerous precedent and codifies discrimination against women—it’s a blow to our rights that we simply can’t afford and must resist.

As mothers, we understand that the decision to build or expand one’s family is a deeply personal one. As women, we understand that birth control and abortion care are part of a much broader spectrum of reproductive choices, which most of us will seek during our lifetimes. In fact, 99 percent of women use birth control at some time in their lives, whether it’s to prevent pregnancy, or as medicine to treat a wide variety of health issues, including such debilitating conditions as endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

But for whatever reason a woman chooses to use birth control, the fact remains that she should not have to appeal to her employer to validate that choice. That simply isn’t how medicine works. To suggest otherwise is both inaccurate and dangerous. Birth control is basic health care. It should be treated that way.

Read the full editorial at The Stranger.

STATEMENT: NARAL Pro-Choice Washington Responds to Supreme Court Hobby Lobby Decision

6/30/2014

The Supreme Court's Ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Amounts To Discrimination Against Women

Contact: Megan Burbank, 206-624-1990

Statement from Rachel Berkson, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Washington:

"Today's ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby is nothing more than discrimination against women. This decision devalues all women and our right to the health care that's best for us and our families.

"99 percent of American women use birth control at some point in their lives. It’s basic health care and it should be treated that way. For the Supreme Court to rule against such a fundamental, essential service codifies discrimination against women and sets a dangerous precedent that could impact access to health care more broadly. To paraphrase Justice Ginsburg’s statement of dissent, we’re talking about birth control today. But tomorrow, it could be blood transfusions or vaccinations.

"Given our state’s changing health care landscape, this is a blow to access that we cannot afford. We’ve already seen Catholic hospitals in our state abandon best practices in reproductive health care for religious reasons. And with confusion surrounding abortion coverage in Washington as the Affordable Care Act is implemented, we need to expand access to reproductive health care, not open the door to more restrictions.

"This is why we have worked so hard to pass legislation like the Reproductive Parity Act in Washington State, and it’s why we will continue to fight to protect and expand access to reproductive health care. Because what you choose to do with the salary you've worked for is not your boss's business. And it's certainly not your boss's business what medical services you access with the insurance benefits you've earned. In Washington, we will continue to work tirelessly with our partners and activist network to ensure that no one stands between a woman and the health care that is right for her.”

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NARAL Pro-Choice Washington is the leading grassroots pro-choice advocacy organization in Washington State. NARAL Pro-Choice Washington works to protect every woman’s right to access the full range of reproductive health options, including preventing unintended pregnancy, bearing healthy children, and choosing legal abortion. NARAL Pro-Choice Washington is the state affiliate of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

State Senate Democrats Hold Briefing On the Reproductive Parity Act
3/3/14

Today, a combination of Washington State Senate and House Democrats will hold a briefing on the Reproductive Parity Act (RPA) in coalition with women’s rights and civil liberties groups. The briefing is scheduled for 2 p.m. in Senate Hearing Room 1 at the Capitol.

With two weeks left in the legislative session and no official Senate hearing scheduled for the RPA, Senate Democratic leaders have taken the lead in working to educate their colleagues on Washington’s shifting health care landscape, and key changes that have occurred since the RPA was last introduced. Presenters at the briefing will include concerned consumers, stakeholders within the insurance industry, health care providers, and others.

In a year when Washington State and the nation face unprecedented changes to our health care systems, passage of legislation like the RPA is critical to ensuring that access to reproductive health care is maintained and expanded, say women’s rights and civil liberties groups.

"At least one carrier on the state health benefit exchange dropped abortion coverage in 2013, and consumers faced confusion about coverage on other plans,” said Rachel Berkson, executive director at NARAL Pro-Choice Washington. "This is just one of many health care changes we’ve seen, and real-world proof that we need the RPA. It’s time to have a serious conversation about access to abortion in our state, and we appreciate the steps our Senate leaders have taken to get the ball rolling.”

Elaine Rose, CEO of Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest, echoed Berkson’s appreciation for the Senate Democrats’ decision to take matters into their own hands, saying, "We’ve been hearing from women all across the state this session who are anxious for the legislature to pass the RPA, and finally at least one part of the State Senate is listening. While we welcome this meeting, it’s important to remember that giving an opportunity for women’s voices to be heard is not the last step, it’s just the first step. We continue to call on the Majority Caucus to bring this up for a vote on the floor.”

Advocates also emphasized the bill’s public support among their constituencies, and its consistency with Washington’s record on reproductive choice.

"Washington State has always been a leader in health care reform and reproductive health.  It is deeply disappointing that the RPA has not progressed this year,” said Lisa Stone, Legal Voice Executive Director. "This sends a message to Washington women that our physical and economic health are not matters of paramount importance worth protecting through our laws.”

 "Our state has a strong tradition of providing legal protections for reproductive freedom, and we need to continue doing so,” added Shankar Narayan, legislative director for the ACLU of Washington. "With health care reform being implemented, we need the Reproductive Parity Act more than ever to keep reproductive freedom a reality in Washington.”
State House of Representatives Passes Reproductive Parity Act

2/5/14  

Olympia, WA – Today, the State House of Representatives passed the Reproductive Parity Act (RPA), which would protect access to comprehensive reproductive health care in Washington by requiring that insurance companies that cover maternity care also cover abortion. The legislation passed with a vote of 54-44 and now moves on to the State Senate, where in 2013 the Republican-controlled Majority Coalition Caucus refused to allow a floor vote despite claims of bipartisanship and moderation.

"We’re grateful to our allies in the House for supporting the Reproductive Parity Act,” said Rachel Berkson, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Washington. "We’ve heard from the Office of the Insurance Commissioner that at least two plans through the state exchange don’t cover elective abortion, and there’s confusion surrounding more. This is what happens without the RPA in place to protect access to care. We appreciate that our representatives in the House stand with women, and we urge the Senate to show that they do too.”

Among the Majority Coalition Caucus are Majority Leader Rodney Tom and Senator Steve Litzow, both of whom have repeatedly blocked the RPA from coming to a vote,despite previous public declarations of support for the bill.

The House passage arrives days after NARAL Pro-Choice Washington hosted their annual Reproductive Health & Rights Lobby Day in Olympia on February 3, in collaboration with Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest. Almost 300 activists traveled to the State Capitol to meet with their elected representatives and urge them to support the RPA.

The bill was first introduced in 2012, with strong backing from the public and repeated support from the House. But the State Senate has failed to pass the RPA over two legislative sessions. Now, with insurance companies failing to cover abortion in their plans through the new State Health Benefit Exchange,the need to pass the RPA is urgent and clear.

Reproductive privacy and freedom are values that Washington State has affirmed at the legislative level since before Roe v. Wade was decided 41 years ago. Passing commonsense legislation like the RPA is crucial in ensuring that women in Washington State maintain access to the care that they need, and as attacks on women’s health escalate nationwide, Washington must lead with nation with strong legislation that protects women’s health.

Contact: Megan Burbank, Communications Director, NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, (206) 227-1825

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