OLYMPIA, Washington — A renewed effort to require any pregnant minor who wants an abortion to first tell her parents packed more than 100 advocates and opponents into a state Senate committee hearing Monday to hear emotional arguments while the senators sat silent.
The audience, among them dozens of young adults wearing t-shirts signaling their side of the long-roiling abortion debate — pink for pro-abortion rights, blue for anti-abortion — and witnesses turned expressive while lawmakers abided by a bipartisan agreement to hold off on questions to maximize testimony time. One opponent of the measure wept while testifying about how she was raped for years as child. A bill supporter who made claims of profiteering by abortion providers elicited laughter from its opponents.
The bill, introduced by state Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, would make Washington the 18th state to require minors who want to terminate their pregnancies to either notify their parents or get a judge's permission first. Another 20 states require parental consent before minors can get abortions, a more stringent requirement than Padden's bill would create.
Supporters of the requirement said young women should not have to face the intimidations of the medical process without support and advice from their parents.
Ciara Rasmussen of Puyallup told the senators of the alienation she felt at 16, pregnant and too scared to tell her parents about getting an abortion. The experience, she said, sent her spiraling into emotional distress and drug abuse that only ended when her parents realized her plight and sent her to rehab in California.
"With parental notification, I wouldn't have had to spend six years of my life trying to hide my wounds and trying to hide my feelings," Rasmussen said.
Opponents countered that the bill would force pregnant minors who didn't want to tell their parents about abortions —because of bad family relationships or other reasons — would be at the mercy of a judicial process where delays would increase the risk of medical complications.
Victoria Redmon of Monroe told the committee in a quavering voice she had been raped from age 8 onward and commanded not to tell anyone about it, especially her parents.
"I would have rather died than have to tell my parents what was going on," Redmon said, sobbing. "Is losing my life worth more than bringing a baby into the world because I had to tell my parents something that I was told my entire life that I was not allowed to tell?"
An identical bill in last year's Senate did not get to the floor for a vote, failing in the Rules Committee after a similarly passionate argument at the Law and Justice Committee. Padden, who is a former judge, did not testify about his bill, but said after the hearing he believed it would put Washington closer to the mainstream on the issue.
"Our Senate is more pro-life after the elections last year than it was before the elections," Padden said, "so we'll see."