Yep, you read that correctly. But I don’t mean “pro-choice” as in women who don’t think you’re responsible enough to decide whether you can buy a big gulp and yet think you should be able to decide to murder your unborn child. It’s pro-choice in the sense of “we think people can make up their own minds about whether or not they buy health insurance that includes abortion coverage.”
This year, the Washington State legislature reintroduced legislation that would create a mandate for all insurance plans that cover maternity to also cover abortion. No other state has such a mandate. As a practical matter, all insurance plans already offer abortion coverage in our state. And, speaking from experience, small businesses are having a very difficult time finding plans that don’t include it. Yet, in one of the most pro-abortion states in the US (Washington approved abortion before Roe and at least one more time after Roe, just for the heck of it, I guess.), the mandate was proposed to further entrench the abortion culture. Last year, the bill did not make it to the Senate floor for a final vote and it looks like it won’t this year either.
Yesterday, the Senate Health Committee held a hearing on the legislation. I testified on one of the panels, after Archbishop Sartain who gave excellent testimony, in particular:
We Catholic bishops want to be very clear. The Catholic Church in Washington State and its affiliated organizations do not now, nor will we in the future, offer coverage for abortion in our health care plans. [emphasis mine]
And, as quoted at the end of the local news segment last night:
The Catholic Church’s support for the dignity of the human person and its opposition to abortion are well known and well documented. Deeply rooted in our Catholic faith is the belief that life is sacred from the moment of conception until natural death. We cannot equivocate about that belief.
Speaking of the news last night, we couldn’t have asked for a better segment. You can watch it here (I’m even in a few frames). The segment started with testimony about her own abortion from panelist Shelly Cook, a post abortion outreach specialist at CareNet of Puget Sound, and it ended with the Archbishop’s quote above. Perfect.
Even better: all of the pro-lifers [the new pro-choicers] who turned out. About 140 opponents of the bill signed in while only 103 supporters did. That means that in an overwhelmingly pro-abortion state, with a pro-abortion governor and a majority of pro-abortion legislators, we had about 30% more people attending in support of life than in support of abortion. As I said on EWTN’s radio program “At Home With Jim & Joy” today, if we can do this in Washington, there’s no reason why it can’t happen in just about every other state.
It was simple, but it worked. We showed up and we said something. Local leaders, mostly Catholic, worked to spread the word and find the panelists. (I was not an organizer; just showed up.) It was so powerful to witness the public testimony that took place after the formal testimony. Panel after panel. We were not outnumbered. Full video is here. Our first panel, headed by the Archbishop, starts around 25:30.By close of day, the Chair of the committee, Sen. Randi Becker, announced that the bill would not be moving out of committee.
While I’m at it, Sen. Becker did an amazing job of running the hearing. I’ve sat through a lot of hearings and the deeply controversial ones can be very difficult to keep in control. If she hadn’t done such excellent work, there’s no way we would have heard from so many different voices. (She had to cut me off to keep our panel to its tight 10 minutes, and she was absolutely right to do so. My timing was only slightly off as I had just one sentence left, “I urge the committee to reject…”)
Sadly, another member of the committee, Sen. Karen Keiser said of the hearing:
It was just for show. It was simply a way to provoke a circus in the sense of having a lot of people show up and wave their ideological persuasions in front of us.
Says a lot about her view of the democratic process, one that many have suffered and given much (everything) so that we may all participate in the legislative process. Maybe it’s time for a better candidate from her district to step up…
This was the second hearing on this legislation. Yet, for all that, not once did even one woman say that she was denied access to an abortion because her insurance would not cover it. Not once. Clearly, there is no need for this legislation.
Just today, someone pointed out to me that the Alan Guttmacher Institute reports that only 12% of the women obtaining abortions use insurance. It’s not so much a question of whether the women have insurance, but whether they want anyone, including their insurance company, to know that they’ve had an abortion.
The New York Times had a piece on the hearing here and included a good quote from Angela Connelly one of the founders of the newly organized Washington Women’s Network:
This is also a bullying bill that forces people who oppose abortion to be part of a system that permits abortions. We cannot insist on one agenda oppressing another.
One of my favorite quotes came from Peggy O’Ban from Human Life of Washington:
You all have the second amendment right to bear arms, to own a gun. But does that mean I have to buy it for you?
And incidentally, for those who also aren’t big fans of funding contraception, next time you want information on contraceptive failure, go to anything where abortion is being advocated. It’s one story of contraceptive failure after another. Which makes sense since Guttmacher reports that 46% of all women seeking abortion were not using contraception when they got pregnant, meaning that 54% were…
All in all, yesterday was a great day. I’ve been in Seattle for more than three years. Everyone warned me what a spiritual wasteland it is (least churched state, etc), but my experience has been just the opposite. I’ve met really interesting people of faith, lots of them.
They We just aren’t weren’t as well organized as people of faith/goodwill in other parts of the country. But yesterday is a sign that things are changing. Yesterday, we were the ones fighting for the right to choose…whether our health insurance plans cover abortion or not. And as one citizen panelist said yesterday, “How can you have a right to choose when there’s a mandate?”