OLYMPIA, WA -- Amidst budget shortfalls and a busy legislative session, lobby groups for abortion clinics have stirred up a perfect storm for state legislators. NARAL Pro-Choice Washington and Planned Parenthood are pushing for new legislation that would place a "gag order" on faith-based charities providing free support to pregnant women. With support from a half million Washingtonians across the state, more than 45 pregnancy resource centers and medical clinics say this legislation would regulate their organizations out of existence, eliminating approximately $15 million worth of free services (annually) to women facing unplanned pregnancies. In addition, the Attorney General's Office has estimated the bill will cost Washington taxpayers more than a half million over the next four years.
The bill "Concerning Limited Service Pregnancy Centers" (HB 2837/SB 6452) will be heard in the Senate Health and Long Term Care Committee on Wednesday, January 27 at 8:00 A.M.
Paula Cullen, RN, former director of Life Services of Spokane, a pregnancy support medical clinic likely affected by this legislation, plans to testify at Wednesday's hearing. "This bill hurts pregnant women, plain and simple," Cullen said. "It will be critical for legislators to learn for themselves about the tremendous contribution of pregnancy centers in their districts. They will find that these entities have been serving their communities for years without complaint and play a critical role in providing a web of support to women facing unplanned pregnancies. This proposed regulation is not only unnecessary and unwarranted, but also a slap in the face to these charities that have been working so hard for so long."
In 2009, pregnancy resource centers and medical clinics:
-- served over 60,000 women at no charge;
-- provided free practical support and social services (baby/maternity clothing, pre-natal/parenting classes, diapers, etc.) for over 34,000 women;
-- performed or provided over 20,000 free pregnant tests;
-- medical professionals performed over 6,000 free ultrasound exams for the purpose of diagnosing pregnancies and confirming viable intrauterine pregnancies;
-- had over 22 social service agencies in Washington State refer to them;
-- provided free services to men, women and teenagers totaling a value of over $15 million
Relying primarily on donations and volunteers, pregnancy centers have been in existence for more than 25 years in Washington State. For a more in-depth look at the history and services of pregnancy centers, download the new national report, "A Passion to Serve, A Vision for Life."
The effort is part of a nationwide campaign by advocacy groups led by the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) and Planned Parenthood to steer women to abortion providers instead of pregnancy centers for assistance with an unplanned pregnancy.