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Session Summary: What You Accomplished

On Monday, the Washington State Legislature passed a budget and the Governor signed it last night. This will be the end of the Legislature’s third special session.

We want to thank you for all your help calling, emailing, and visiting your legislators! There were numerous bills that you helped make a difference on. With your help:

  • A bill to facilitate the use of telemedicine was changed to prevent it from being used for webcam abortions
  • Parental notification for abortions was moved through the legislature the furthest in years
  • The Abortion Insurance Mandate was killed for the fourth year in a row
  • Parents still have a choice on whether their children receive immunizations or not
  • A bill to ban therapy that would help minors with unwanted same-sex attraction was defeated

Listed are some highlights of what was in the budget and also a summary of the bills we worked on this past session.

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BUDGET

A two-year $38.2 billion operating budget was passed to avoid a government shut-down. The House passed it 90-8, while the Senate passed it 38-10.

Budget Highlight: Funding for Abortions and Contraceptives for Illegal Immigrants
The abortion industry attempted to increase revenues by expanding a state program called Take Charge to illegal immigrants. The reasoning is if there are less babies being born, the State can save money on illegal immigrants’ “prenatal, birth, and postpartum services and medical coverage for newborns.” Read more here. However, this proposal was defeated in final budget negotiations.

Budget Lowlight: Funding for Planned Parenthood
While Planned Parenthood was not successful in their legislative policy priorities, they will continue to receive more than $20 million each year from Washington taxpayers. Although Planned Parenthood does not explicitly receive money in the budget, “family planning” is the term the government uses to describe the area where they allocate our tax dollars to pay for abortion and contraception.

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 LEGISLATIVE ISSUES

Planned Parenthood will still receive money from the state, however, as noted above, they were not successful in their legislative policy priorities. Thanks to the help of citizens all over the state, pro-life legislation made significant progress than in previous years and bad bills were once again killed before making it to the Governor’s office. Here are some of our collective legislative successes:

PASSED: SB 5175: Telemedicine & Webcam Abortions
This bill dealt with telemedicine and was defeated in the Senate last year after being approved by the House because of concerns that it would make it possible for telemedicine to be used to remotely prescribe chemical abortions.  This is especially problematic in a state like Washington that does not require parental notification for abortions. However, the version signed by the Governor limited the application of the bill to “essential benefits” under the Affordable Care Act, which excludes abortions.

SB 5289: Parental Notification for Abortion
If passed, this bill would have required a 48 hour notice be given to parents before an abortion could be performed on a minor. This bill advanced in the legislative process the furthest is has in years! It received a hearing, was voted out of committee, and was moved all the way up to the Rules Committee.

 

Because of your help, these bad bills did NOT become law:

HB 1647: Abortion Insurance Mandate
This would have required all insurance providers to provide abortion insurance coverage. Pro-life business owners would have no choice but to provide abortion insurance for their employees. Every business, regardless of their religious convictions, would be required to subsidize abortions by paying for abortion coverage.

This is the fourth year that the legislature has tried to pass the Abortion Insurance Mandate and it was the fourth year it died before making it out of the House.

HB 2009: Immunization Exemptions
Current law allows children to be exempted from the immunization requirements for health reasons, religious reasons, or for the personal objection of the parents. This bill would have eliminated the personal objection exemption, which is cited in 70% of the cases in which exemptions are granted.

This bill was threatening to take away a parent’s right to chose what they thought was best for their children.  With support from parents across the state, this bill never made it out of committee.

SB 5870: Regarding Aversive Therapies
This bill banned licensed therapists from providing sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) for minors. It banned aversion therapy, which included ice baths and shock therapy (which we are all opposed to), but also talk therapy. Under this bill, minors would not have received help from therapists, even if the minor and the parents of the minor agreed that they wanted it, and it was in the best interest of the minor to get the therapy.

The Senate passed a version of this bill that would ban ice baths but still protect free speech. The House changed it to ban all forms of SOCE. Your taking action on this bill stopped the Senate from passing the version that limited free speech while protecting minors from abuse.

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These are just some of the bills that we worked on this session, but the success of them passing or failing to pass is credited to you. This progress could not have been possible without your participation and your prayers. Thank you for making a difference!

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Conscience Rights Debates in Olympia

The debate over conscience rights is one of the mostly hotly debated issues in America today.

Stories about fire chiefs being fired because of their beliefs about homosexuality and efforts to force businesses to participate in same-sex ceremonies often headline the conscience rights debate. But the debate over whether the government can compel someone to do something they prefer not to do is taking place in other arenas as well.

Last month the Supreme Court ruled 9-0 that the Arkansas prison system could not prohibit a Muslim prisoner from growing a beard as he believes he is required to do.

In the Washington State legislature, three different pieces of legislation are dealing with the issue of whether individuals can be compelled to do things that violate their beliefs.

1.  Abortion Insurance Mandate

For the past three years, the abortion industry has been working to require every insurance policy bought and sold in the private market to cover abortion insurance.  This proposal would make it illegal for someone with a moral objection to abortion to purchase for themselves, their family, or their business a policy that will not subsidizing abortion.

Having been defeated for three years in a row, abortion industry advocates came back this year with a bill that is even worse.  SB 5574 and HB 1647 would not only require every policy to subsidize elective abortions and controversial forms of contraception, but would also require coverage for voluntary sterilization as well.

The number of legislators co-sponsoring these bills has declined significantly over previous years.  This could be a reflection of the fact that some legislators are growing tired of justifying their attempts to force people to pay for things they believe are wrong.

However, a public hearing in the House of Representatives on this issue is expected soon.

2. Overturning Hobby Lobby

Last summer, the United States Supreme Court, in the case of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, ruled that privately held companies could not be forced to pay for contraception coverage that violated their conscience.  The Court said that such a mandate violated the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act because there are ways for the government to make contraception available without violating the freedoms of business owners.

In response, Washington State legislators have introduced SB 5026 and HB 1502 which would make sure the religious freedoms protections recognized by the Supreme Court would not extend to Washington businesses.

The bill would require every Washington State employer to pay for objectionable forms of contraception even if they are willing to provide other forms of contraception.

3.  Accommodating the Rights of Religious Objectors

As you probably know, many jobs in Washington State require union membership. For the privilege of educating children, teachers in Washington are required to pay around $1,000 per year to the teacher’s union.

Teacher’s unions in Washington State support many far left causes that are inconsistent with the values of many teachers. For that reason, the law recognizes the rights of religious objectors to opt out of paying union dues and instead contribute the funds that otherwise would go to the union to a charitable cause.

However, employees attempting to exercise these rights have run into challenges.

First, the law states that the beliefs of a religious objector must be “based on bona fide religious tenets or teachings of a church or religious body of which such public employee is a member.” This language allows unions to force employees to prove that their beliefs are explicitly written in the governing documents of a church they are part of.

Secondly, the law requires the union to agree with the employees choice of charity they would like to contribute to in lieu of paying union dues.  This has led to unnecessarily complicated negotiations when a particular union boss wants to control which charity an employee supports.  One religious objector who testified in support of this legislation yesterday was told the only approved charity was the far left American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Senate Bill 5552 strengthens conscience rights and makes it harder for unions to harass employees who disagree with how the union spends money.

First, it allow a religious objector to opt out of membership simply for having a “personally held religious belief” and thereby eliminates the need to prove that it is an official religious tenet of a specific religious organization.

Secondly, it allows the employee to direct their union dues to any non-profit that participates in the Washington state combined fund drive program and thereby eliminate the ability of the union to choose which charity the religious objector supports.

Both changes would further expand conscience rights and make it harder for people to be harassed because of their beliefs.

If you are part of a union and would like to know how to stop supporting causes you disagree with click here.

Each of these bills is currently being debated in the state legislature and each of them will help determine the trajectory of the conscience rights and religious freedom debate in Washington State.

The homosexual lobby, the abortion industry, and union interests are all powerful political forces that each have their own reasons for wanting to restrict your conscience rights.

In addition, their significant campaign contributions have earned them a great deal of political influence despite their strong opposition to individual freedom and conscience rights.

It is up to us to be a counterbalance.

If you have thoughts about any of these issues, contact your legislator through the legislative hotline at 1-800-562-6000 or email them by clicking here.

Remember, freedom is not the status quo. It has been earned at a great price and must be defended with vigilance. Every day, those who want to take away your freedoms are busy in Olympia trying to do so.  The least we can do is make a phone call.

Senators Seek to Overturn Hobby Lobby Decision

Last year, one of the biggest developments in the national debate over conscience rights was the Supreme Court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) contained a mandate requiring employers to cover twenty specific types of birth control in the insurance plans they purchased for their employees.

Hobby Lobby, a national chain of craft stores, objected to four of the twenty forms of birth control on the grounds that they could cause an abortion. As a result, they filed a lawsuit claiming that the mandate violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The Supreme Court agreed with them in a 5-4 decision.

In response, a group of State Senators have introduced the Employee Reproductive Choice Act (SB 5026). The bill creates a state version of the mandate which the Supreme Court said could not be imposed by the federal government.

This bill would force every business in Washington to cover twenty specific forms of contraception in the insurance policies, including some that cause abortion.

It was sponsored by every Democrat Senator except Senators Hargrove and Sheldon. (For the past two years, Tim Sheldon has been caucusing with the Republicans).

Despite the Supreme Court’s decision, the state likely has the authority to create such a mandate.  Because Washington State does not have a RFRA, and the federal RFRA does not apply to state law, the federal protections are greater than what appear to exist at the state level.

While eighteen states have adopted a state version of RFRA that extends the higher level of protection state law as well, Washington State is not one of them.

Of course, the fact that Washington State could impose such a mandate does not mean that they should.

For the past three years, the Washington State House passed an Abortion Insurance Mandate requiring every private insurance policy to cover abortion. Each year the bill died in the Senate. Proponents of that mandate claimed it was necessary to ensure that women were not denied access to abortion because her employer’s unwillingness to pay for abortion insurance. However, in three years of debate, no one testified that an abortion had ever been denied or even delayed for lack of insurance.

At least hundreds of women communicated the fact that they wanted choice in the kind of insurance they purchased.

Arguments in support of this new mandate are equally tenuous.

The bill states that employers must be forced to pay for abortion inducing drugs because, “women with reliable access to contraceptive services have forty percent higher earnings than those who lack such access, and access to contraception can significantly increase a woman’s earning power and narrow the gender pay gap.”

All this time I’ve been telling my daughters that kindness, hard work, and good choices are going to make them successful in life. Maybe there really is a pill for that.

Fortunately, the prospects for this bill in the Senate do not appear to be strong. It has been assigned to the Senate Law & Justice committee which is chaired by Senator Mike Padden, who is not thought to be supportive of the proposal. A House companion bill was introduced yesterday (HB 1502).

Regardless of these bills’ success this year, this is yet another assault on conscience rights and a reminder of the continued need for vigilance.

The left in Washington State is working hard to create a work environment in which the willingness to participate in same-sex ceremonies and pay for abortion are preconditions to being in business.

They’re effectively creating the type of theocracy they claim to despise.

In this theocracy, government is god, the gay wedding is the worship service, and abortion is the sacrament. Provided you attend services and partake of the sacrament as often as god requires, you are welcome to participate in the marketplace. If not, they’ll cast you out until you repent.

But it’s for your own good.

To share your thoughts about this or any bill, you are encouraged to call your legislators through the legislative hotline at 1-800-562-6000 or email them by clicking here.