Republicans in the state legislature are on a roll this week: Weakening plans to address education funding, trying to prevent trans people from being able to use the bathroom, claiming the state should "quarantine" other cities from wage increases. Still, even amid all that, they found time to deal their latest blow to reproductive health care providers.
Recently in Olympia, Senator Karen Keiser (D-Kent) introduced a resolution "condemning violence against women's health care clinics and providers." In the resolution, Keiser referenced two recent attacks on Planned Parenthood: the arson at a Pullman Planned Parenthood clinic in September and the deadly shooting in Colorado Springs in November.
Resolutions like this one are just official statements from the state senate, not laws, but they still go through a legal review from both parties before they're introduced for a vote on the floor. When Keiser got edits back from the Republican side, there was a stark change: They'd stripped it of all references to Planned Parenthood.
The two mentions of specific attacks on Planned Parenthood clinics now referenced attacks on "a women's health center."
Between June 2015 and December 2015, arson, vandalism, threats, and harassment have increased at health centers for women, including:
(1) A firebombing at a women's health center in Pullman, Washington in September 2015; and
(2) An attack by a gunman at a women's health center in Colorado Springs, Colorado on November 27, 2015, resulting in the tragic death of three individuals and injury of another nine people
Language about Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson's investigation clearing Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing was removed entirely. Sentences about the history of a woman's right to have an abortion were watered down to reference only "the right of citizens to make their own health care decisions."
"What frustrates me," Keiser says, "is this 'you've got to stay in the closet' attitude about women's reproductive issues and abortion. I think we've got to talk about those a little more forthrightly."
(It's also worth noting that Senate Republicans were just this week claiming to be so worried about violence against women that they need to ban trans women from using women's restrooms.)
In the end, the resolution passed. Keiser says she was just glad Republicans didn't block it entirely. Keiser says she doesn't know which specific Republican lawmaker asked for changes to the resolution, but "it was done at the behest of the Republican caucus." Republican Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Stranger.
Meanwhile, Keiser is also the prime senate sponsor of a bill that would require employers to provide pregnant women with reasonable accommodations in the workplace. On that effort, she says that she is finally beginning to get some bipartisan support, but only from Republican men.
"Women who are Republicans have told me privately they're pro-choice or they support pregnant workers, yet not one has signed on," Keiser says. "I'm kind of at this point where if we don't talk about it, it's not going to get better."
Keiser's pregnant worker bill is set to get a hearing in the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee on Monday.