As expected this morning, Thursday February 10, the House Health & Wellness Committee passed House Bill 1366, on a near party-line vote, 6-4. All four Republicans on the committee voted no, and all six of the yes votes were Democrats. There was one representative who missed the vote.
Rep. Troy Kelley, who represents the 28th District, in Pierce County, happened to "go to the bathroom" during the vote on 1366, and only on that vote. The 28th has been swinging rightward in recent years, and he was the only Democrat on the committee who was not a co-sponsor. Consequently, it had been hoped that he would be a "no" vote, but in the end he chose not to be counted on either side.
Another disappointment was Rep. Kevin Van De Wege. He represents the 28th district in Jefferson County, on the northern Olympic Peninsula. Pregnancy Center representatives from his district have spent much time educating him on the issues, and seen some seemingly genuine effort on his part to deal honestly with the facts. Nevertheless, come time to vote this morning, it seems he either still failed to understand that Pregnancy Medical Clinics are already fully regulated by virtue of their licensed and regulated medical staff, or else he simply caved to the pressure from the abortion lobby, which has so much power within the Washington Democratic Party.
The Committee Chair, Eileen Cody, and one of the bill's main sponsors, Judy Clibborn, made some fanfare over the fact that they had "heard the voices" of the thousands of grassroots supporters of our 57 pregnancy centers who have turned out to committee hearings, and contacted legislators by phone, fax, and email, not to mention in person. They claimed the bill had been significantly amended to accommodate these concerns.
The facts, however, are quite different.
The text of the bill they passed is still terrible. The change are barely worth mentioning.
The committee made no effort to respond to serious concerns regarding the unconstitutional "forced speech" and "viewpoint discrimination" provisions. They are fully aware that a similar bill in Baltimore was declared unconstitutional by a federal judge in Maryland, and that Rob McKenna, our Attorney General, indicated that he thought this bill was even more clearly in violation of the First Amendment than the Baltimore ordinance.
The bill probably heads now to the House floor, but could possibly be derailed in the Rules Committee. Republicans on the committee put up little fight today, but afterward in meetings with the many pregnancy center supporters who packed the room offered a hopeful assessment. Rep. Joe Schmick said this bill was the 'talk of the town', and that the grassroots efforts had been well noted.
Some Democrats who were originally cosponsors were not expecting this kind of attention, and are reportedly looking for a way out.
The Republicans indicated that now more than ever it was necessary for the half a million pregnancy center supporters to make sure their representatives heard from them to kill this bill.