Spike: WA constitutional abortion amendment should be an essential right

Jan 25, 2023, 4:52 PM
A woman holds an abortion rights sign as people gather in Cal Anderson Park during the "Seattle Defends Abortion Rights!" rally and march, part of a Women's March Weekend of Action, in Seattle, Washington on October 8, 2022. (Photo by Jason Redmond / AFP) (Photo by JASON REDMOND/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by JASON REDMOND/AFP via Getty Images)

Multiple bills were brought forward to the Washington State House of Representatives and the Senate Tuesday, only a few days after what would have been the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision.

Some of the legislation includes SB 5242, a bill to ease the burden of out-of-pocket costs by eliminating cost-sharing for patients seeking abortion care. Other bills include HB 1469 and SB 5489, which concern access to reproductive health care services and gender-affirming treatment in Washington.

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The most substantial of these bills was a proposed amendment to the state constitution, SRJ 8202, which would protect reproductive freedoms, including the right to have an abortion.

During his testimony for the bill, Governor Jay Inslee said that the state has no right to make personal health decisions and force people to endure unwanted pregnancies.

“We are now in a historic fight to maintain reproductive freedom and the right to abortion access,” Inslee told legislators. “We cannot be lulled into thinking that this is a past debate. It is a current challenge, and it is a current threat to the women of the state of Washington.”

Despite the push by the Governor, the state Senate Democratic majority leader says it’s unlikely a constitutional amendment on abortion will pass the legislature.

The proposed amendment to enshrine the right to an abortion in the state constitution needs a two-thirds majority in both the house and senate.

Senator Andy Billig (D) said the votes are just not there.

“It’s highly unlikely that we will have the votes to pass [this legislation] on the floor,” Billig said. “Our colleagues on the other side of the aisle have made it very clear that they are anti-choice.”

Some of the opposition that the bill is facing from state Republicans is that the bill is too broad and would not allow proper regulation that they feel is important and popular when talking about abortion, State Sen. Mike Padden (R) says.

“Contrary to what our governor might believe, most people have complex and nuanced views on abortion. According to a national Marist Poll last May, only 24% of Americans think abortion should be available at any point during a pregnancy, while 68% favor some type of restrictions on abortion,” Padden said. “This proposed constitutional amendment could open the door for future legislatures in Washington to ease current restrictions on abortions in our state.”

Another argument made by state Republicans is that state abortion laws are unlikely to start heavily restricting abortions, like in some more conservative states. However, Inslee argued that things could change in the legislature and strong protections are necessary.

“There is a party in our state that wakes up every single morning trying to take away this right from women,” said Inslee. “In multiple states, unfortunately, they have done so effectively. And while you have been sitting here for two weeks, there have been multiple bills in THIS legislature to take away this right.

“If you do believe it should be a right, why not put it in the constitution? That’s the question that I would ask,” Inslee continued.

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Meanwhile, dozens gathered outside the Capitol building to call for lawmakers to protect and strengthen abortion rights, but others showed up to the Capitol to oppose the legislation.

Spike O’Neill talked on KIRO Nights about the demonstrations and why he thought it was important that people have the ability to advocate for the issues that they believe in.

“[My wife and daughters] all went to Olympia today to take part in this reproductive freedom rally on the steps of Olympia. And I take great pride in my family’s sense of activism,” Spike said. “I’ve raised young women that I believe are strong, independent, qualified, empathetic, ambitious, and have good character. They should have the same rights as every other American whether they have a uterus or not.”

Spike compares these abortion protections to other civil rights laws, especially anti-discrimination legislation, saying that the right to bodily autonomy is an important aspect of people having the freedom to live their lives in the way they want.

“There are some things that should just be a national law. Anti-discrimination laws should be national laws. I don’t think anybody would agree that a state should have the right to discriminate against someone based on the color of their skin, or their gender, their religious beliefs, or their sexual orientation. These are personal liberties we all feel that every American should enjoy,” Spike said. “And I think body autonomy falls into that category, that every American should have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

State lawmakers must approve of the amendment before it could go to a vote of the people, where Washington voters would be able to vote on the referendum.

Listen to KIRO Nights weeknights from 7 – 10 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Spike: WA constitutional abortion amendment should be an essential right