Posted by: sweeneyblog | February 4, 2013

Reproductive Struggles in Olympia

If 2012 was the political year of women (binders of women, Sandra Fluke and the all the “rape guys” losing at the ballot box), then 2013 might very well become the year of women’s reproductive choice legislation. Already, our new governor has name-checked one of Planned Parenthood’s priorities during his inaugural address and a slew of fresh legislation concerning abortion, contraception and funding for family planning has been introduced on both sides of the aisle.

Stephanie Kountouros

Stephanie Kountouros

To get a better grasp on these issues, I sat down with the Public Policy coordinator for the Mt Baker Planned Parenthood Stephanie Kountouros. In an effort toward full disclosure, I count her among my friends and know she is a wicked good card player. In her professional life, however, her biggest priority this year is a bill called the Reproductive Parity Act (SB 5009). “This bill would make a requirement that all insurance companies in Washington, if they cover maternity costs, they must also cover abortion.” She notes that already, all the private insurance companies in Washington do that, however, with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, we will be opening exchanges for people to purchase insurance from companies outside of Washington and they might not carry that sort of coverage. “It is important to preserve what we have now so that every woman who pays for insurance has the same options as everyone else.”

Playing devil’s advocate, I asked if this wasn’t just an attempt by Planned Parenthood to keep their revenue stream. Kountouros notes that abortion makes up a very small slice of Planned Parenthood’s business, but, “the impact is not as big on Planned Parenthood as it is on the women and children of our state. The families with the best health care options make the best health care choices. This bill will keep both Planned Parenthood and Washington state strong.”

Another key bill being debated is a Parental Notification Bill, that has been introduced in the House (HB 1257) and the Senate (SB5156). This bill would demand that parents be notified, and would require a mandatory waiting period for teens requesting an abortion with no exemption for children in incestuous or abusive situations. Kountouros is, naturally, quite opposed to this bill. “Of course we want the parents involved, and most are. From our clinic’s perspective, that is what we usually see. However,” Kountouros continues grimly, “this bill creates a gravely dangerous situation where the teen may go online to find information and cause themselves drastic harm.”

Sen. Ranker (in my recent interview with him) highlighted this bill as a top priority to stop. “This bill will have a chilling effect on young women’s choices. I would hope that every young woman facing that choice would involve their parents, but for some, that is not an option. This effort would increase the number of unsafe abortions, increase the number of teenage mothers. It is very clearly an effort at intimidation.”

Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood

Finally, there is the ever-present struggle over funding. Last year, four Planned Parenthood clinics were shut down around Washington for lack of funding.  Kountouros notes that our state would pay over four dollars in unintended pregnancy costs for every dollar cut from family planning. Planned Parenthood is “an integral part of the community health network. Many of our patients see no other doctor. It is an important resource for students and a gateway to vital health services.” When I asked her to elaborate, she told me about a friend who came to Planned Parenthood for a check-up because she had no health insurance and no other place to go. They found breast cancer. But because of her visit, they were able to catch it early and she lives happily and healthy to this day.

If these issues interest you, you can get involved by joining Planned Parenthood on their annual lobby day. My wife and I have done it a couple of years in a row and it is a wonderful experience. There is a bus going down from Bellingham, they provide training and lunch. If you are interested, click here to email Stephanie Kountouros today.



  1. […] As for Women’s health, Sen. Ranker is once again filling his role as an advocate on these issues. “Part of the bargain for the Republican control of the Senate was ‘no positive women’s health bills off the floor.’ Yet with the implementation of Affordable Care Act, this could take our funding for women’s health backwards. Defense in this case means offense. It is time for the Reproductive Parity Act.” I will be getting into this issue more in tomorrow’s post: Reproductive Struggles in Olympia. […]

  2. Why should my insurance company (ultimately me through increased insurance premiums have to pay for something that violates my religious values?

    • Two points, first: covering abortion saves the insurance company and therefore you (through decreased premiums) money because it is much less expensive to have an abortion than all the pre-natal care, child check-ups, etc.

      Two, when you purchase insurance, you are purchasing a complete package. You might be personally opposed to headlights on a car, but you understand that it is part of a complete vehicle therefore when you buy a car, you get headlights, whether you use them or not. It is time that we stopped stigmatizing women’s health options and presented them as part of the whole package. That’s what the RPA does.

  3. […] you, my loyal readers, know better than Rep. Buys because you read my article earlier this week in which we discussed this bill, the Reproductive Parity Act. You know that this bill would not […]

  4. […] budget up with corporate tax loopholes and blocking essential reforms like the Dream Act and the Reproductive Parity Act. Now they have just a few weeks left to hammer out a budget and resolve a number of thorny […]

  5. […] Kevin Ranker and many Democrats in Olympia this year was a bill called the Reproductive Parity Act. I covered it here, but the essence is that if an insurance plan covered maternity services, it should cover abortions […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: