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Abortion Back on the Washington Legislative Agenda

A Washington state Senate committee has taken up a new abortion bill. The Law and Justice Committee yesterday (Thursday) heard testimony on a proposal to require parents be notified when their daughter plans to have an abortion.

The lead sponsor is Spokane Valley Republican Senator Mike Padden, who chairs the committee.

His bill has several provisions. It requires the girl or her provider to tell her parents at least 48 hours before the abortion is to be performed.

A second provision was the focus of the testimony by Andrea Piper-Wentland, the director of the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault. A pregnant minor may bypass the abortion notification, but she must convince a court first.

"For girls who become pregnant by a parent or guardian, this bill would require those victims who have suffered a most personal victimization and trauma, and who cannot involve a parent in her abortion decision, to go to court and to prove to a judge by clear and convincing evidence, a very high burden, that she is pregnant as a result of being raped by a family member,” Piper-Wentland said.

The committee also took testimony from Gonzaga law professor emeritus David DeWolf, who argued similar legislation has been enacted in many other states and judged constitutional.

Dr. Sharon Quick, a pediatrician who directs the Washington chapter of the American Academy of Medical Ethics, made a biological argument: teens aren’t equipped to make such big decisions.

“Dr. Jay Giedd has used MRI imaging to longitudinally follow adolescents’ brain development," Quick said. "He demonstrated that the area of the brain involved in critical thinking and decision making has not reaching full maturity until the early-to-mid 20s. The dorsal lateral pre-frontal cortex, which is important for controlling impulses is among the latest brain regions to mature.”

Among the bill’s other provisions, a provider who performs the abortion without providing notice is guilty of a misdemeanor offense, as is someone who coerces a pregnant minor to undergo an abortion.

Our thanks to TVW for the sound in this story.