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2015 Session: Bills to Watch For

On Monday, a newly elected Washington State legislature will begin the new legislative session. The Washington State Senate continues to be controlled by a 26-23 Majority Coalition Caucus (MCC) majority. Where last year, that majority was comprised of 24 Republicans and 2 Democrats, this year it is comprised of 25 Republicans and 1 Democrat.

The Washington State House has a 51-47 Democrat majority, a gain of four seats for the Republicans.

The primary task of each new legislative session is to pass a budget that will fund operations through 2017. Last month, Governor Jay Inslee proposed a budget that includes $1.4 billion in new taxes, including a new state capital gains tax. That proposal has already been met with some skepticism in the Senate.

But every session involves debates over non-budgetary matters. The influence of the abortion industry and the homosexual lobby is felt every year in Olympia. Thanks to the persistence of citizens like you and the courage of many legislators, their worst ideas have been stopped in the legislature for several years.

But here is a look at four issues we think could be debated in the legislature in the upcoming session.

Abortion Insurance Mandate: Senate Bill 5026 would require every private insurance company in Washington State to cover abortion. Every insurer already offers abortion, but under current law individuals and companies are free to purchase insurance that does not cover it if they prefer. This bill has been defeated in the Senate for the last three years.

Forcing Religious Hospitals to Perform Abortions: The abortion industry is increasingly concerned with the fact that Catholic hospitals are merging with public hospitals because Catholic hospitals are unwilling to perform abortions. Groups supportive of the abortion industry held a number of community events around the state over the summer and circulated a petition in support of legislation that would require religious hospitals to perform abortions in violation of their beliefs. We are not yet aware of specific legislation to address this issue but are preparing for it.

Payment for Webcam Abortions: This bill would facilitate payments from state sources for telemedicine, or medical consultations done remotely via computer. While this would be an efficiency in most cases, the abortion industry wants to be able to charge the state for prescribing chemical abortions remotely. They have used a similar strategy to increase their revenues in other states because it allows fewer medical staff to prescribe more abortions. Encouraging abortion providers to prescribe abortions remotely is especially problematic in Washington State where there is no requirement that parents know about a minor’s abortion. As a result, encouraging remote chemical abortions would create a situation in which minors are getting an abortion without their parent’s awareness and without any medical professionals nearby. In light of the fact that chemical abortions have killed women and frequently cause severe abdominal pain and bleeding, this would be a dangerous situation for the girls involved.

Banning Sexual Orientation Change Effort (SOCE) Therapy: In 2014, an effort was made to make it professional misconduct for a licensed therapist to help a minor reduce or eliminate unwanted same-sex attraction. The bill passed the House in 2014 but failed to pass the Senate. Proponents of the legislation claim that ice baths and shock therapy have been used in this therapy. Proponents have provided no evidence that it has happened recently—if ever—and it is widely condemned. It is also worth noting that imposing therapeutic goals on a client for any reason anyway is already professional misconduct. The real purpose of this legislation is to create legal liability for counselors who communicate the fact that it is possible for some people to reduce or eliminate same-sex attraction. Previous version of this bill would have regulated licensed therapists, even if they are pastors or employees of churches working inside the church, making it a threat to individual liberty, parental rights, as well as religious freedom and free speech.

There will undoubtedly be other issues to deal with as well and we will keep you informed of all the developments affecting marriage, life, religious freedom, and parental rights.

You are encouraged to contact your legislators through the legislative hotline at 1-800-562-6000 anytime you have a thoughts to share or questions to ask.

Save the number as “Olympia” so you can easily share your thoughts.

Remember, in the legislature, without your involvement good things can’t happen. It doesn’t matter who has the better idea, but who has the most people behind their idea.

If you want to influence the policy that is made, make sure good policy is also good politics.

Your contribution of $5 or more allows us to do what we do. Thank you for your support.

Forced to Sell Abortion Drugs? Olympia Pharmacy in Court Today

This afternoon in Portland, OR the owners of Olympia based Ralph’s Thriftway will be in front of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals defending their right not to sell Plan B, a drug that causes early term abortions.

No CGs – ADF: Govt shouldn’t force Christian pharmacists to dispense abortion-inducing drugs from ADF Media Relations on Vimeo.

 Ralph’s Thriftway has been embroiled in a legal mess with Washington State since 2007 after the state took the position that Plan B be sold by every pharmacy.

Their policy was to refer customers looking for Plan B to nearby pharmacies that carried it.

In 2012, a federal district court in Washington suspended the state’s regulations requiring them to sell Plan B. The court said the regulation existed “primarily (if not solely)” to ban religiously motivated referrals.

The court noted that while attempting to require Ralph’s Pharmacy to stock Plan B, they permit pharmacies to refrain from stocking and delivering drugs for “almost unlimited” business, economic, and convenience reasons.

Attorneys for the state were joined by attorney’s from Planned Parenthood in appealing the decision.

Organizations like Planned Parenthood have been working hard to leverage their political influence gained through political organization and campaign contributions to create state policies that prohibit people who do not share their enthusiasm for abortion from making a living on an equal playing field with those who do.

Their primary argument is that it is “discriminatory” for pharmacies not to sell abortion drugs. Of course that’s true in the sense that the pharmacy is making a choice not to sell something they disapprove of.

Taco Bell doesn’t sell hamburgers. Christian books stores don’t sell the Koran.

If you’re looking for an item that one particular store doesn’t sell, you’re free to go to another store. At least that’s how it used to be.

All choice (which abortion advocates once claimed to support) is discrimination.

For groups like Planned Parenthood, discrimination isn’t the real problem. After all, they discriminate against birth and mammograms.

They object to the fact that people still have the freedom to make choices that reflect moral disapproval of abortion. Which also explains why, for three years, they have been working hard to require every private insurance policy in Washington State to cover abortion.

So today, they’ll be partnering with the Washington State government doing their best to make sure that businesses and citizens in Washington State have fewer freedoms than they did yesterday.

Unless you’re one of the lawyers or one of the judges, there isn’t much you can do about this case.

But what you can do as a citizen is make sure you know how those you vote for feel about conscience rights. This case could be done away with immediately if Washington State passed legislation protecting the rights of businesses owners not to violate their conscience.

But for years, the majority in the state legislature has been either cheering or standing idly by while state agencies harass grandparents because of their beliefs about marriage or abortion.

We can do something about that.

We better.

Forcing Churches to Pay for Abortions

The internet has helped us all develop a healthy skepticism.  We read certain headlines and automatically assume they’re either misleading or totally false.

Sure, I have my concerns with President Obama, but I’m not buying that he’s now the High Priest of the Church of Satan.

Then there are other stories that we hope are fake only to find out that they’re actually true.

There were two of those this week.

First, in England, British education officials have told a Christian school that they are violating the “British value” of “tolerance” because only Christians are providing the instruction at their Christian school.

That’s like having art classes taught by actual artists. We can’t have that.

The school was told “to invite a leader from another religion, such as an imam, to lead assemblies.”

This new policy was a response to a scandal in which several government schools in Birmingham, England had been taken over by Muslim managers who began using them for Islamic instruction.

So…their response to too much Islamic instruction in government schools is apparently to require Islamic instruction in Christian schools.

If they refused to provide non-Christian instruction for their students, the school was told it could be downgraded or even closed.

“But that’s in England,” you say.  “Here in the United States we still respect religious freedom.”

Or maybe not.

The other story comes from the land of fruits and nuts — California.

The state of California has decided that churches must now pay for elective abortions.

Not businesses or not private individuals, which would be bad enough.  Churches.

At the urging of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which once defended religious freedom and individual rights, the Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) has decided that elective abortions must be covered under “basic health services”.

As a result, insurance companies have begun notifying churches that abortion must be included in their insurance coverage.

This is precisely the outcome many in the Washington State legislature have been working toward for three years unsuccessfully.  But, having failed in the legislature, we should probably be looking out for rule changes from bureaucrats to accomplish the same purpose.

You know, if at first you don’t succeed, just circumvent the democratic process.

For those who live in California, this new change creates the bizarre situation where federal law protects their right not to pay for chemical abortions but state law is forcing them to pay for surgical abortions.

Obviously the elected officials in California know this violates the beliefs of millions of people in their state.  But here’s an important point to remember.

They don’t care.

The abortion industry helps them get elected.  People in churches don’t.  Ergo, the abortion industry wins.

Of course litigation will result.  We pray that some vestiges of the right to the free exercise of religion will remain.

Nevertheless, here we are.

In the very recent past, the left has been hysterical in explaining the need to maintain a rigid separation between church and state.  But that separation seems to be less important now if it would mean limiting the state from controlling the church.

Remember, just last week pastors in Houston were told to turn over their sermons on homosexuality and same-sex “marriage” to the government.

If you stayed out of the debate because you want to coexist with those who disagree with you remember this: they don’t want to coexist.  At least not the ones driving the political agenda.

They want you gone. They want you in the closet they claim to have resented so much.  They want the punishment for coming out of that closet to be so severe that you choose to keep your narrow-minded, hateful religion to yourself. For good.

Once that happens, they’re sure everyone will be happy.

After all, the only reason women feel bad about abortions or kids feel conflicted about their same-sex attraction is because of bigots like us.

Yes, they’re wrong.  But that doesn’t matter if the ones who know they’re wrong step aside and let them pass. It is possible to have peace through surrender, but then you’re the vanquished.  As Ronald Reagan always said, peace through strength is much, much better.  So be strong.

There is an election in 11 days.  The people who are elected will determine which direction Washington goes with respect to conscience rights, religious freedom, and real tolerance.

Be an informed voter and make sure your friends are as well.  If you see that they haven’t voted yet, send them a reminder.

Let’s not be California.

Conscience Protections and the Affordable Care Act

Last month’s report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) — the independent government agency that investigates the use of federal funds — cast suspicion over President Obama’s promise that the Affordable Care Act would not undo conscience laws prohibiting the use of federal dollars to fund abortions.

The GAO reported that many plans offered through the state exchanges include abortion coverage.  A large percentage of consumers — both low – and middle – income families — who purchase insurance through these exchanges will receive federal subsidies for their coverage, but of the eighteen insurance providers surveyed by the GAO, not one was collecting a separate fee for abortion insurance.

In our state, the Washington Health Benefit Exchange is the online marketplace where residents purchase health insurance conforming to the requirements of the ACA.  If you qualify for federal subsidies, they will be sent directly to the insurance company on your behalf.

So how does Washington State ensure that taxpayers like you and I are not paying for abortions?  While the topic of abortion rights and funding was a point of strong contention in passing the ACA, it is oddly absent on the Washington Health Benefit Exchange website (wahealthplanfinder.org).  On this site, consumers can enter information about themselves to get price estimates for insurance plans.  There is no question about abortion coverage.  It is also missing on the website of the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner (insurance.wa.gov).  A prominent page on the Insurance Commissioner’s site is titled “What determines how much you’ll pay in premiums.”  Listed below are seven factors, including whether you smoke and whether you qualify for federal subsidies.  Not a word about abortion.

Those who direct the Washington Health Benefit Exchange say that abortion coverage fees required by the ACA will be collected by the IRS.  This is their plan for the tax years 2014 and 2015.  By 2016 they hope to implement a system that collects this fee in a more direct manner.

If you are still following me, you are probably wondering a few things:  Why are they collecting the abortion insurance premiums in such a roundabout way?  And why aren’t they informing women that they will pay extra for abortion coverage?  Won’t these women be surprised and frustrated when, come tax season, they find out they must pay for something they thought was included in the original price?

Or maybe you’re thinking, “Did I unwittingly purchase a plan that includes abortion coverage?  Am I going to be charged for something I never wanted?”  Since most plans include abortion coverage, presumably some women who would never consider getting an abortion may purchase a plan that covers abortion because it has other features that are desirable.  They probably do not know that they will be charged an additional fee for this insurance.

Bill Hinkle is a former state legislator, a pro-life Republican and one of eleven board members of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange.  He insists that our state’s apparent negligence on this front is the result of technical issues.

The state’s website was already designed when the laws regarding abortion coverage were passed, he explained.  “The way our system was set up, we didn’t have any way to do it,” he said.  “I wish it was just some simple accounting thing, but it’s not.”

Hinkle added, “It doesn’t mean that we are not in keeping with the spirit of the law.  There’s nothing political about it.”

That may be the case.  A year after it began to take effect, still no one seems to fully understand the Affordable Care Act or what its final implementation will be.  For concerned citizens, it’s more important than ever to wade through tedious details to stay informed and hold government accountable.   We are living in a new era: Government of the experts, by the experts and perhaps for the experts.  Which makes our task clear—become an expert.

Another Broken Promise

Just over five years ago, an attempt to persuade the Congress and the public to support the Affordable Care Act (ACA), President Obama stood before a joint session of Congress and declared to the American people, “under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions, and federal conscience laws will remain in place.”

A new report released today, prepared by the independent, nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO), demonstrates that despite the President’s unambiguous promise taxpayer dollars are being spent on abortion.

By way of review, the federal Hyde Amendment strictly prohibited the use of federal funds for abortion from 1976 until 2010, when the ACA was passed.

This longstanding federal policy became a major point of contention in the legislative debate as finding votes proved to be difficult, even among his friends.

Eight pro-life Democrats refused to support the ACA if federal funds were going to be used for abortion.

In order to secure those votes, President Obama proposed a rule that would require any policy covering abortion to charge an abortion surcharge and promised that other funds would not be used to pay for abortion.

In the end, this convinced those who were otherwise uneasy with the law to support it and final passage was secured.

However, this GAO report only confirms the suspicions of many that the proposal was a gimmick intended to secure votes, not an honest attempt to honor the conscience of the hundreds of millions of Americans who do not want to pay for abortions.

Some states took action to prohibit taxpayer funds from being used for abortion. But in states where that did not happen, the federal government has done nothing to ensure compliance with federal law.

The report found that five states (NJ, CT, VT, RI, HI) don’t offer a single plan that doesn’t include abortion coverage. That means that all subsidies in those states are covering abortion.

In the state of California, where 1.25 million people are receiving federal subsidies for their health care plans, 95% of all plans cover abortion.

In the state of New York, 405 of 406 plans cover abortion on demand.

Over 1,000 plans on the ACA exchanges cover abortion on demand, which would never have been allowed under the Hyde Amendment.

The accounting gimmick that was supposed to be the solution to this problem is largely being ignored. Of the 18 companies the GAO surveyed in their study, not one of them was collecting a separate abortion surcharge.

We are not aware of any evidence that the Department of Health and Human Services has made any attempt to require compliance with its own laws on this matter.

If you like your insurance you can keep it, period.

Your premiums will go down.

Federal funds will not be used for abortion.

Looks like none of it was true.

That’s why we should all be concerned that at the same time he was promising not to use federal funds for abortion he was also promising that federal conscience laws will remain.

Consider yourself warned.
Your contribution of $5 or more helps FPIW continue to defend life, marriage, religious freedom and parental rights.

Hobby Lobby: What It Means for Arlene’s Flowers

The ink was hardly dry on the Supreme Court’s decision in Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius before the left trotted out their well-worn talking points about the “war on women”.

Don’t want to pay for her abortion?  War on Women.

Don’t want to pay for her contraception? War on Women.

The whole feminist movement used to be about recognizing that women weren’t dependent. But now it appears to have taken a bizarre u-turn to a place where a fundamental tenant of women’s rights is that women will be hopelessly lost if someone else doesn’t furnish accessories for her sex life.

If I were a woman, I think I’d be a little offended.

But since I am a apparently a chauvinist, I will just continue believing that women are capable of getting  their own birth control if it’s that important to them.

As one tweeter pointed out in response to the social media firestorm, “if you can afford a device to tweet, you can also afford $8 a month for your own contraception”.

How disenfranchising.

Regardless, the Supreme Court has spoken and family owned businesses can decline to pay for some things that violate their beliefs.

But in no way does this settle the much larger debate over religious freedom.  It’s important for us to understand how this decision affects the numerous other cases working their way through the courts.

One of the nation’s most significant religious freedom cases involves Arlene’s Flowers, a Richland, WA florist who declined to provide the floral services for the same-sex “wedding”.

Since Hobby Lobby is a business that was told they couldn’t be forced to violate their conscience, it would be nice if we could simply conclude that Arlene’s Flowers also can’t be forced to violate their religious beliefs.

But as is often the case in the world of law, it’s not quite that simple.

In the Hobby Lobby case, the Green family successfully argued that the contraception mandate violates the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), because it burdens religious liberty without having a compelling reason to do so.

The problem for businesses like Arlene’s Flowers is that the Supreme Court, in Boerne v. Flores, ruled that RFRA cannot be applied to the states.  Since Arlene’s Flowers is being sued by Washington State, the statute that protected Hobby Lobby from a federal law is not available to protect a business from state action.Washington State could adopt their own version of RFRA and offer greater protections for religious freedom-as eighteen other states have done.

However, that idea was met with strong opposition in 2013 specifically because many legislators do not want businesses to have the freedom to choose how they operate.

In addition, the lawsuit against Arlene’s Flowers has been brought under the Washington non-discrimination statute, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.  There is no federal equivalent.

Of course Arlene’s Flowers does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.  She had knowingly and cheerfully served the customers involved in this lawsuit for nearly a decade and employed people with same-sex attraction.

But at this point, Attorney General Bob Ferguson does not recognize the difference between declining to provide a certain service and declining serve gay people generally.

Because of this, Arlene’s Flower’s cannot simply rely on the encouraging ruling from the Hobby Lobby case.

Unfortunately, many on the left believe the right not to be discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation, which was invented 10 years ago, trumps the First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion that has existed since the founding of our country.

Even more strangely, they believe it is a greater affront to personal freedom to ask Sally to find another florist than it is to force Jane to do something that violates her beliefs.

In any other context, this argument doesn’t pass the straight face test.

No one would accuse a tattoo artist who refuses to place a swastika on the arm of a client of imposing his narrow views on someone else.

So what can we do to protect businesses like Arlene’s Flowers in Washington?

The first thing you can do is call Bob Ferguson at 360-753-6200 and ask him to recognize the rights of business owners to exercise religious freedom and drop the lawsuit against Arlene’s Flowers.

Then, you need to find out how your elected officials feel about religious freedom and the lawsuit against Arlene’s Flowers. You can email them here.

If religious freedom matters to you, it needs to be an issue that determines how you vote in every election.

Remember, friends don’t let friends vote for people who sue grandmothers because of their beliefs.

In the end, politicians respond to their constituents or get replaced by the same.

It is our job to make sure the voices supporting religious freedom are stronger than those opposing it.

Yesterday was a good day for religious freedom, but it is up to us to make sure that there are more good days in the future.

Your contribution of $5 or more make it possible for us to protect religious freedom here in Washington State.

Obamacare Abortion Coverage in Washington

Over the last couple years, the abortion industry in Washington has done a lot of hand-wringing over the possibility that some insurance plans sold in Washington would not cover abortion.

When it was passed, the Affordable Care Act gave states the right not to cover abortion in their health care exchanges.

Eighteen states passed legislation specifically prohibiting abortion coverage in their exchanges.

Of course Washington was not one of them.

We continue to have an A+ rating from the National Abortion Rights Action League for our unambiguously pro-abortion policies.

However, because of the prohibition on federal funding for abortion,  (which the Obama administration is apparently not interested in enforcing) there was uncertainty about how abortion coverage would be treated in the Obamacare exchanges.

The abortion industry’s response was to promote an abortion insurance mandate and require every insurance policy to cover abortion.

And why not?

Can you even imagine the harm that would result if a woman wanting abortion coverage inadvertently purchased a policy without it?

What? You think women are smart enough to figure out if they are buying abortion coverage or not?

You obviously hate women.

Regardless, we no longer have to discuss hypotheticals, because Obamacare is here now. We passed it so now we get to find out what’s in it.  And hasn’t that been like an early Christmas present.

Here in Washington State, there is only one insurance policy on the exchange that doesn’t cover abortion.  That plan is the Blue Cross Multi-state options administered by Premera.

Every other plan?  You guessed it. They cover abortion. And a mad scramble is underway to make sure everyone knows it.

Now that the facts are in, a mandate to force everyone to buy abortion insurance as a way of making abortion insurance available appears to be unnecessary.

It would be like a mandate to run beer commercials during football games. They got it covered.

But that doesn’t mean they won’t revive the mandate.  And the reason why is buried in the name of the legislation…the Reproductive Parity Act.  They aren’t primarily concerned with making sure women have access to abortion.  That’s status quo.  They want to create parity between birth and abortion. They’re angry that moral disapproval of abortion exists and that people have the right to express that through their purchasing decisions.

So they want to take that right away.  After all, they’re “pro-choice”.

If you’re pro-choice in the true sense, and you’d like more choices than the current Obamacare exchange offers, consider Samaritan Ministries, a Christian cost sharing ministry that my family and I are part of.

We made the switch when our monthly premium reached $1,800/month. Now we pay $350/month to cover our family of 6.

Membership in this ministry allows you to avoid the Obamacare fine/tax and is much less expensive than what people are paying through Obamacare.

It works too.  I have a two-year old son that is a danger to himself and others.  He has been to the ER three times and we pay only the first $300 of every incident.  The remainder is covered by checks from families all over the country who are helping to share the burden.

We are also blessed with the chance to send our prayers and a check to another family with medical costs every month as well.  It’s people helping people, and the government isn’t even involved. Who ever heard of such a thing?

Yes, it’s a commercial. No, I wasn’t asked to plug them nor are we compensated in any way for doing so.  But it might be a blessing for your family.