OLYMPIA — For the 39th year in a row, pro-life supporters gathered on the steps of the Capitol for the Washington State March for Life Rally.
Organizers estimate 5,000 people attended the rally Monday, Jan. 23, the day after the 43rd anniversary of Roe v. Wade 1973 Supreme Court decision legalized abortion at the federal level and left states to decide what restrictions, if any, would apply.
In 1991 Washington voters passed, with 50.04 percent of the popular vote, the Washington Abortion Rights Initiative, I-120, which declares that the state could not deny a woman her right to undergo an abortion.
Some attending Monday’s rally, like Curtis Bush, a Lacey paraeducator who held a sign that read, “Dad’s for pro-life,” had close ties to abortion. In 1998 Bush lost his daughter when his partner decided to have an abortion, he said.
“I had no right to seek her life,” Bush said. “I’m here representing not only my daughter, Shelby, but also my belief that as far as what God has created, only He can intervene.”
Bush also said that in cases of rape and incest he agrees with pro-choice advocates that abortion could be permissible, but he argues that many times pro-choice advocates don’t understand the issue fully.
“Until you’re in the position of having grieved over the loss, I think you’re sitting on the outside of the issue,” Bush said. “I think that too much of the time, abortion is used as birth control.”
Megan McKenzie, with National Advocates for Pregnant Women, also has close ties to the issue. A genetic disorder that makes it dangerous for her to be pregnant forced her to have an abortion because her life was at risk.
McKenzie was part of a small counter-protest at the rally of pro-choice advocates. “My body, my choice,” they chanted energetically, along with other slogans.
“Some abortions are medically necessary and for that reason I believe abortion should be allowed in the late term,” McKenzie said.
Two bills have been introduced in the 2017 Legislature so far which could restrict abortion rights for some women.
HB 1002, sponsored by Rep. David Taylor (R-Moxee), proposes prohibiting the use of public funds for elective abortions in the state of Washington. No committee hearing has yet been scheduled.
The bill contends “polls overwhelmingly demonstrate that Americans, regardless of their opinion on whether abortion should be legal, oppose taxpayer funding for abortion.” The bill doesn’t cite the sources for the statement.
According to an October 2016 poll conducted by Politico and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, 58 percent of voters opposed the use of federal funds through Medicaid to pay for abortion.
HB 1003, sponsored by Rep. Matt Shea (R-Spokane Valley), proposes establishing parental notification requirements for abortions performed on women under age 18. It awaits a hearing before the House Health Care and Wellness Committee. A similar Senate bill, 5320, is scheduled for public review at 10 a.m. Thursday before the Senate’s Law and Justice Committee.
Tiffany Hankins, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, argues that the bills threaten Washington women’s abortion rights.
“These do nothing to reduce unintended pregnancy and they target vulnerable women,” Hankins said.
HB 1243, sponsored by Rep. Brad Klippert (R-Kennewick), proposes prohibiting the use for any purpose other than burial, the body of a fetus whose death resulted from an abortion. This bill also awaits a hearing before the House Health Care and Wellness Committee.
Michelle Fuller, who came to the rally in Olympia from Des Moines, said the issue was simple to her.
“We don’t have a right to end a life,” Fuller said. “Whether it’s in the womb or the electric chair.”
It’s illogical to arbitrarily decide when a life begins, Fuller said, adding she does not feel like she can have a discussion with pro-choice advocates in the counter protest.
“They’re so angry,” Fuller said. “You can’t have a dialogue with that.”
Enrique Pérez de la Rosa is a reporter with the WNPA Olympia News Bureau.
This story is part of a series of news reports from the Washington State Legislature provided through a reporting internship sponsored by the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation. Reach reporter Enrique Pérez de la Rosa at firstname.lastname@example.org.