Tuesday was a difficult day in the legislature.
Early in the evening, the Washington State Senate passed HB 1523, a bill that requires every insurance plan to pay for every form of birth control.
In broad terms, the bill requires that Washington State require every insurance plan to cover everything that was required under federal law as of December 31, 2016.
If it seems like a strange way to write law, that’s because it is.
Typically, if lawmakers want to do X, they say “we want to do X”. They don’t typically say, “You must do everything they would have made you do back then.” At the very least, it lacks clarity.
This bill enshrines all the federal laws, agency rules, and court interpretation from a particular date in the past as the new law in Washington State going forward.
The bill is essentially the Washington State Legislatures way of saying “We like everything Obama did around health care and we hate everything that Trump will do” without actually knowing what those things are.
The most controversial portion of the bill, however, is the effort to require every insurance policy to cover drugs that cause abortions and therefore violate the conscience of millions of Americans.
The Obama administration also passed regulations to force private employers to do things that violated their religious beliefs but Hobby Lobby sued and ultimately prevailed when the Supreme Court said that those mandates violated the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). As a result, businesses in the United States have had the freedom choose whether to pay for drugs that cause abortion or not.
With this bill, however, the Washington State legislature is saying that Washington businesses will not have the same freedom businesses in the rest of the country enjoy when it comes to exercising one’s conscience.
Unfortunately, the relief that was available for Hobby Lobby will not be available for Washington businesses.
The federal law that stopped the federal government from encroaching on the conscience rights of businesses owners does not restrict state action and therefore would not be applicable to this new law.
The bill was passed on largely party lines with Republicans Joe Fain and Maureen Walsh joining all the Democrats to pass it.
Still, litigation is likely to follow on constitutional grounds.
In a second debate that did not end until nearly one o’clock in the morning, the Washington State House passed SB 6037 which, among other things, made surrogacy contracts in Washington State legal.
Until now, surrogacy contracts were prohibited as a matter of public policy because the state had decided that women should not be able to rent their wombs for children for the same reason they are not allowed to rent their bodies for sex or sell their organs.
You can donate a kidney, but you cannot sell one.
There are some things the law allows us to do voluntarily that it does not permit to be done commercially because introducing a profit motive creates too many obvious and egregious opportunities for exploitation.
But early this morning we decided that doesn’t matter anymore.
Fourteen separate amendments were offered during the protracted debate including amendments that would have required:
- Intended parents to be married so that children who are sold through this process would have two parents;
- Surrogates to be citizens of the United States and a resident of Washington State so that poor, vulnerable women will not be induced into exploitative arrangements by the promise of quick money;
- Adoption like screening for intended parents to ensure that their homes are a suitable environment for children; and
- Limits on the number of children that could be purchased through commercial surrogacy.
Just last week a single, Japanese man was awarded custody of thirteen children he has purchased through surrogacy. With this bill, he will be allowed to come to Washington State and pay for 100 more if he wants to.
Every amendment was defeated along party lines.
The supporters of this bill are excited because it makes it easier for adults to get custody of someone else’s child.
Same-sex couples, in particular, view their challenges with obtaining biological children as a matter of equality. Since they cannot have children together, they are required to use someone DNA in order to have children. Because the state has always recognized the right of a child to know it’s biological parents, severing parental rights and attaching them to another adult has always been a rigorous process.
We have always gone to great lengths to ensure that we severed parental rights only as a matter of last resort and created new parental rights with someone else only after those non-parents were determined to be able to provide a healthy environment for children to be raised in.
This bill makes it much easier to sever parental relationships and create new ones because it is more convenient for adults. In the past, the parent child relationship didn’t exist for the convenience of the adults.
Now it does.
The bill was passed on party lines with every Democrat voting in support of it and every Republican voting against it.
Both of these bills will now go to Governor Inslee for his signature. He is expected to give it in both cases.