WA: Women’s Health Advocacy Groups Applaud House Passage of Reproductive Health Act

Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest
NARAL Pro-Choice Washington
Legal Voice
Surge Northwest

Women’s Health Advocacy Groups Applaud House Passage of Reproductive Health Act 

Proactive and commonsense HB 1647 ensures comprehensive insurance coverage for reproductive health

OLYMPIA, WA — Today the Washington State House of Representatives voted to approve the Reproductive Health Act (RHA), legislation to provide comprehensive insurance coverage for the full range of reproductive health services for both women and men. HB 1647 includes provisions for affordable and equitable access to the full range of birth control options, recommendations to the legislature on reducing health disparities, and a requirement that insurance companies that cover maternity care must also cover abortion care. The House voted 51-46-1 to approve the bill, which now heads to the Senate for consideration.

“We urge the Senate to quickly take up the Reproductive Health Act. Washington women are depending on it. Only the RHA ensures that women have the ability to make the health care decisions that are best for themselves and their families,” said Elaine Rose, CEO of Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest. “We applaud the House for passing the RHA and partnering with women to address the real reproductive health issues facing Washington.”

Key provisions of the Reproductive Health Act include access to all FDA-approved birth control methods for people insured through state-regulated plans, and making progress towards reducing disparities in reproductive health care. The legislation also includes a provision requiring insurance companies that cover maternity care to also cover abortion care, an essential protection that will leave a woman’s decision about her pregnancy with her and her family, not her insurance plan.

“Equality for women means guaranteed access to free birth control and access to quality, affordable health care—including maternal and pregnancy care, birth control and abortion,” said Rachel Berkson, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Washington. “The Washington House has shown leadership in passing bills that will help Washington women and their families thrive. Now we look to the Senate to see whether they will stand with us or stand in our way.”

Low-income women disproportionally face barriers in accessing contraception and timely abortion care. Out-of pocket costs create an impossible financial hardship, so women often aren’t able to make the decisions about their reproductive health they feel is best for them.

“As other states across the country add yet more roadblocks to women’s access to reproductive health services and coverage, we applaud Washington legislators for working instead to ensure that all women in this state have meaningful access to contraceptive and pregnancy care, including abortion,” said Janet Chung, Legal & Legislative Counsel at Legal Voice.  “Access to reproductive health coverage, without cost-sharing or co-pays, is critical so every woman can determine for herself whether and when to become a parent.”

Despite our state’s strong reputation as a nationwide leader on expanding access to abortion and birth control, for the first time in years the future of health care for women and families in Washington is uncertain. It is clear there is still more work to be done. In October, the Alliance for a Just Society gave Washington a C+ rating on their Women’s Health Report Card. Additionally, just last month the Senate Law & Justice Committee voted to advance a bill that would require parental notification for a minor seeking an abortion, harmful legislation that would put teens at risk.

“Whether a woman is choosing when to grow her family, accessing pregnancy care or having regular check-ups for reproductive health – it is important to have access to healthcare that is high quality, easy to access and affordable,” said Kirsten Harris-Talley, board member of Surge Northwest. “Washington State has long stood with women and their families so they and their communities can thrive – we need to see the Senate take that stand today and vote to pass the Reproductive Health Act.”

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PPVNW Statement on HB 154 and Vito Barbieri’s Ridiculous Comments

Planned Parenthood Statement on HB 154 Passage and Vito Barbieri’s Ridiculous Comments (Audio Link Below)

Boise, ID — Today, the Idaho House State Affairs Committee held a hearing on HB 154 before voting to advance it on a party line vote. The legislation contains restrictive regulation on medication abortion. During the hearing, committee member Rep. Vito Barbieri raised eyebrows when he, according to the AP, “received a brief lesson on female anatomy after asking if a woman can swallow a small camera for doctors to conduct a remote gynecological exam.”

In response, Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest issued this statement from Idaho Legislative Director Hannah Brass Greer:

“Today’s comments demonstrate exactly why politicians should not be in the business of making medical decisions. In Idaho and across the country, women deserve the freedom and privacy to make the private decisions that are best for themselves and their families.  We already knew that these politicians are only interested in restricting access to essential medical services, and after today we can confirm they don’t even have the most basic knowledge of the human body to have an informed opinion. Women deserve better leadership from our elected officials.”

** Link to audio of the exchange between Rep. Barbieri and Dr. Julie Madsen: http://youtu.be/PXxPfNHp37g **


Barbieri: You mentioned the risk of colonoscopy, can that be done by drugs?

Madsen: Mr. Chairman, Representative Barbieri – it cannot be done by drugs. It can however be done remotely, where you swallow a pill and this pill has a little camera and it makes its way through your intestines, and those images are uploaded to a doctor who is often thousands of miles away who then interprets that.

Barbieri: Follow up – can this same procedure then be done in a pregnancy? Swallowing a camera and helping the doctor determine what the situation is–

Madsen: Mr. Chairman and Representative – it cannot be done in pregnancy, simply because when you swallow a pill, it would not end up in the vagina.

Barbieri: Fascinating, that certainly makes sense, Doctor.

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18th Annual PPVNW Luncheon in Seattle

It has been a hard year for women’s rights advocates across the nation.

Since the disastrous Hobby Lobby decision, politicians have tripped over each other in the race to praise the Supreme Court’s decision that a woman’s health can be decided by her employer. With one court decision, the landscape of women’s health has been severely altered. The State Senate majority is newly emboldened to silence those who fight for justice in reproductive health.

We’ve faced an anti-women’s health majority before, and we refuse to let this one continue to bully our state back to the stone age on women’s rights.

Join us Wednesday, May 6th, in welcoming women’s health advocate Wendy Davis. The former Texas State Senator made waves across the nation with her 13 hour filibuster to kill a legislative effort that would have dramatically reduced women’s access to critical healthcare services in her state. After a courageous 2014 gubernatorial bid, Wendy joins us to ask: what challenges will women meet in 2015, and how will we fight back?

We invite you to stand with Wendy, and women’s rights activists across the state, to support the crucial work of Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest!

Paid for and authorized by Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest, 2001 E Madison St, Seattle, WA 98122.

Contributions to Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest are not tax deductible as a charitable donation or business expense and may be used for political purposes, such as opposing or supporting state and local candidates. Make a gift today and become a member of Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest, $10 of your gift qualifies you for a special annual membership in Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest.

WA: Senate Majority Holds Hearing to Restrict Abortion Access

PRESS RELEASE FOR: Monday, February 2, 2015

New Senate Majority Wastes No Time; Quickly Schedules Hearing to Restrict Abortion Access

Olympia, WA — Following Congress’ lead on prioritizing cutting access to reproductive health before actually governing, the anti-women’s health State Senate majority has scheduled a hearing on legislation to restrict access to abortion. SB 5289 is an incredibly harmful bill that would require parental notification before a minor can seek an abortion.

“SB 5289 is a solution in search of a problem. Most teens already involve their parents in their pregnancy decisions, but some just can’t. In the real world, some teens are from homes with abuse or addiction, and forcing those teens to notify their parents could put them in danger,” said Jennifer Allen, Director of Public Policy at Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest. “Instead of looking for ways to legislate family communication, our lawmakers should be addressing the real reproductive health issues facing Washington women and families, like access to highly effective birth control. SB 5289 has no place in Washington.”

This new push to restrict women’s essential reproductive decisions comes soon after the 2014 election, when many politicians assured voters of their focus on other priorities. Senator Steve O’Ban, Vice-Chair of the Law and Justice Committee, said in October that voters “aren’t concerned with issues such as abortion” or birth control access. Back then, he said that his constituents were “mainly worried” about the economy and job growth.

“The reality is that reproductive freedom is an economic issue,” said Rachel Berkson, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Washington. “By delaying teens’ access to abortion care, these laws just push them to have to seek more costly and invasive procedures later in their pregnancy. This is just another way anti-choice lawmakers are trying to impose barriers to accessing safe and timely abortion care on the most vulnerable among us.”

Washington teen pregnancy and abortion rates are the lowest they have been in recent years—the rates have dropped by half since 2003. SB 5289 distracts our state from proven strategies that prevent teen pregnancy and abortion, like providing comprehensive, fact-based sex education and confidential access to contraceptive services.

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Not Giving Up the Fight in Idaho

PRESS RELEASE FOR: Thursday, January 29, 2015

After Disappointing Vote to Continue LGBT Discrimination, Activists Vow to Continue the Fight

Boise, ID — This morning, the House State Affairs Committee voted 13-4 to block HB 2 from advancing, legislation to add “sexual orientation” and “gender discrimination” as protected groups in the Idaho Human Rights Act. Currently LGBT Idahoans have no protections from discrimination under state law, including when seeking employment or housing.

Until now, the Idaho legislature had blocked Add the Words from even receiving a hearing for nine straight years. This week the committee heard over 20 hours of testimony, with a strong majority coming from those supporting the bill. According to the Statesman, 134 spoke in favor compared to just 54 against.

Statement from Hannah Brass Greer, Idaho Legislative Director & Public Affairs Manager:

“After nine years the legislature finally held a hearing and heard over 20 hours of testimony from 134 people who told powerful stories not only of discrimination, but also of living in fear every single day.  The committee heard from people who want to be given the opportunity to make a living, raise their families and live without fear in the state they love, just like everyone else.  Unfortunately, when the majority of this committee voted no this morning, they were telling all of the people who came here to testify and the thousands more outside of this building and across the state that discrimination is allowed.

This is not the end. We will not stop fighting until Add the Words becomes law and our state protects all people from discrimination. Whether it takes one year or nine more years, we’re not giving up.”

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Legislative Sessions Beginning in All Three States

2015 legislative sessions are beginning in Washington, Alaska, and Idaho this month. In all three states, Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest will be working to pass a comprehensive set of legislation that fights for reproductive health, rights, and justice, including protecting access to abortion and birth control.

PPVNW volunteers, board members, and staff will also be monitoring bills proposed by anti-women’s health politicians that seek to interfere in the personal medical decisions that are made between a woman and her doctor. Earlier this month, the Guttmacher Institute’s annual legislative report found that nationwide, “During the 2014 state legislative session, lawmakers introduced 335 provisions aimed at restricting access to abortion. By the end of the year, 15 states had enacted 26 new abortion restrictions. Including these new provisions, states have adopted 231 new abortion restrictions since the 2010 midterm elections.”

Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest is determined to continue the fight in Alaska, Idaho, and Washington and ensure women’s health and reproductive rights are protected. We will continue to make sure that politicians in all three states are held accountable for their promises and actions as fight to protect reproductive health, rights, and justice.

If you agree, add your name here and join us as a champion for women and families in 2015 and beyond!

Alaska Medicaid Expansion Will Benefit Women and Families

PRESS RELEASE FOR: Monday, November 24, 2014

Medicaid Expansion Under Governor Bill Walker Will Benefit Economy While Supporting Alaska Women and Families

Juneau, AK — With Governor-elect Bill Walker and Lt. Governor-elect Byron Mallott set to take office on December 1st, Alaska women and families are already looking forward to the many benefits of Medicaid expansion. Departing Governor Sean Parnell repeatedly refused to increase Alaskans’ access to health care, but Walker and Mallott successfully ran against him with expansion as a central plank of their campaign platform. Walker has said on multiple occasions that “his first act as governor would be to accept federal money to expand Medicaid.”

“Bill Walker and Byron Mallott’s clear promise to expand Medicaid is welcome news for all Alaskans and we applaud them for it. They understand that hardworking individuals and families should have access to quality health care when they need it without facing huge medical bills,” said Jessica Cler, Alaska Public Affairs Manager. “Affordable health care is particularly important for women. Women of reproductive age comprise almost three-quarters of the adult Medicaid population. With Medicaid coverage, women are able to receive important health care including birth control, life-saving cancer screenings, and maternity care.”

Medicaid provides critical preventive and primary care services to low-income women, and protects women’s access to family planning by ensuring coverage and giving them the ability to choose their own health care provider. APRN reported last week: “Medicaid expansion has the support of a long list of organizations in Alaska including the Alaska Chamber of Commerce, the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium.”

“Affordable health care expansion isn’t just good for the health of Alaskans, it’s also a huge boost to our economy,” said Cler. “Bill Walker is right when he says that this is a ‘no-brainer.’”

The federal government will finance 100 percent of the cost for Medicaid expansion through 2016. Starting in 2017, the federal government will cover no less than 90 percent of the costs on a permanent basis. In 2013, it was estimated that Medicaid expansion could create $1 billion to $1.5 billion in new wages for Alaska “from added jobs in health care and employment generated by new business activity.” And earlier this year, it was calculated that under Medicaid expansion Alaska would see a net increase in federal spending of $3.3 million between 2014 and 2016, and the creation of 1,400 jobs between 2014 and 2017.

Under the shaky and soon to end leadership of Sean Parnell, Alaska is one of over 20 states that have refused to expand Medicaid. According to an April Gallup poll, states that have expanded Medicaid and opened their own exchanges have seen a higher rate of decline in the number of uninsured. At the time, the 21 states and the District of Columbia which have both expanded Medicaid and opened their own exchange, saw an average decline in uninsured of 2.5 percent.  The other 29 states that didn’t enact both measures had a dip in uninsured of less than 1 percent on average.


  • 19,000 women aged 18-64 could gain Medicaid coverage under expansion. [Center for American Progress, 2/27/13]
  • 64,000 residents will be newly eligible for the expansion, 44,500 of whom are previously uninsured. [The Lewin Group, 4/12/13]
  • Due to Parnell and the legislature’s refusal to expand, about 17,000 uninsured adults who would have been eligible for Medicaid fell into the “coverage gap,” left without access to affordable health care. When a state does not expand Medicaid coverage, many low-income adults without children remain ineligible for Medicaid and are also unable to access financial assistance to purchase private coverage in the Marketplace. [Kaiser Family Foundation, 1/6/14]
  • An additional 900 women will receive mammograms and 1,500 will receive pap smears, increasing access to important preventive health care services. [The White House, 7/14]
  • Federal dollars for Medicaid expansion would reduce the burden on our overcrowded emergency rooms. In 2008, state and local governments spent nearly $10.6 billion (20 percent) of the cost of caring for uninsured individuals in hospitals. [American Heart Association, 11/6/14]

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Thank you Ruth Schmidt

This year, Alaska lost a legend when Ruth Schmidt passed away at the age of 97.

Photo via legacy.com.

In a time when many women weren’t encouraged to enter scientific fields, Ruth received her Masters (in 1939) and Ph.D. (in 1948) from Columbia University before going on to become a prominent geologist. She moved to Alaska in 1956, and later founded the Geology Department at the University of Alaska, Anchorage.

An article in the Anchorage Daily News from April summed up just how impressive Ruth’s accomplishments were: “Recently the American Association of Petroleum Geologists announced it would honor the organization’s first 100 female members to commemorate its centennial in 2017. The first woman featured is Ruth A.M. Schmidt.”

Ruth was a treasure to the state of Alaska, not just because of her professional accomplishments, but also because of her storied philanthropic work.

As her obituary notes, “she supported conservation, opera and symphony, social services, public media, science, and science education for women and minorities.”

There’s something else to add to the list: Ruth supported women’s health and reproductive justice.

We were overwhelmed and amazed when we learned that part of Ruth’s will included a bequest to Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest, the first-ever contribution of that type to our organization.

We want to thank and honor Ruth for her support of women’s health and reproductive freedom.

Because of Ruth’s generosity, we have been able to wage a stronger fight against the threats to women’s health posed by politicians who want to interfere in personal medical decisions. Coupled with the support of thousands of activists like you – as donors, volunteers, and community supporters – we’ve been able to advance a progressive agenda across Alaska, Idaho, and Washington fighting for women and families.

Ruth was a trailblazer for women, for science, for Alaska, and for reproductive health and rights. If you want to continue her legacy with us, add your name to the list as someone who will continue to fight for women’s health in 2015 and beyond.

Early Voting in 2014!

Why wait until November 4? You can vote early in all three states and get it out of the way!

Washington: Mail your ballot back by Election Day, or take it to a drop-off location. You can still register to vote in person until October 27. For more information about voting and registration, visit the Washington Secretary of State’s website.

Idaho: In-person absentee voting is happening now until October 31. Visit your County Clerk’s office to cast your ballot. For locations and more information, visit the Idaho Votes page.

Alaska: Early voting is available every weekday until Election Day! There are dozens of locations across the state. For addresses and more information, visit the Alaska Division of Elections website.

Make your voice heard! You can also pledge to vote and we’ll send you a reminder. Fill out the form here: http://ppvnw-votingmatters.org/.