Testimony on Washington state's Reproductive Parity Act

5018 Rainier Ave. S., Seattle, WA 98118 • (206)722-6057 • RWseattle@mindspring.com •www.RadicalWomen.org

Testimony at January 19, 2012 hearing on House Bill 2330,
Reproductive Parity Act

By Helen Gilbert, Radical Women

Washington State has been in the forefront of the fight for reproductive rights since voters passed a referendum legalizing abortion in 1970 -- three years before the Roe v. Wade decision. Now, with the Reproductive Parity Act, we have the chance to show women in other states how they can defend themselves against the shameful exclusion of abortion coverage from the federal health reform plan. The Reproductive Parity Act, which would require state insurance plans to cover abortion if they cover maternity care, is crucial to making sure that federal healthcare reform is not a permanent setback for women's health and rights in this state.

Abortion is a safe, simple, necessary and legal medical procedure that is vital to women being able to exercise any form of control over their lives. If abortion is unavailable or unaffordable, it makes little difference if it is legal. Women in large parts of this state and the country must already travel for miles to find a clinic that offers the procedure. Well-financed propaganda, physical violence against doctors and clinics, and bankrupting insurance rates for people and clinics have narrowed many women's options. When affordable abortion is not available, it is poor women who suffer because they can't pay the medical fees and travel costs, or take the time to overcome all the outrageous barriers to obtaining an abortion that have been devised by opponents of women's equality. We cannot allow bigoted and profit-hungry medical insurance providers to determine women's choices.

Radical Women has a proud history of helping spark the reproductive rights movement in this state. Our founders worked with grassroots African American women in the anti-poverty program to lead the state's first demonstration for legalized abortion here in the capitol in 1969. Then, as now, it was women of color and poor women who suffered the most from being denied reproductive rights. Full reproductive justice means no forced sterilization, equal access to abortion at all ages and income levels, safe contraception, quality childcare, pre- and post-natal care, and non-discriminatory health care at every stage in life. It is crucial to pass the Reproductive Parity Act as well as to fully fund state health and social services so that those with the least resources can live full and equal lives.

The Reproductive Parity Act is an important step to be achieved, while we also carry on the fight for "Abortion rights across the land -- safe, legal, on demand!"