Before the ass-crack of dawn this morning, I stood waiting with 100 people outside the capitol for today's hearing on Senate Bill 5274, which seeks to impose minimal disclosure and privacy standards on limited-service pregnancy centers. It was my first Senate hearing. While Cienna Madrid focused her reporting on the hearing itself, I was eager to talk to people opposing the bill who hadn't been groomed to testify.
- The sweet, sweet ride of a "life-affirming specialist."
"They're taking the crisis out of 'crisis mode'," a woman named Sherri Johnson from Longview, Washington, told me. When I asked what she meant by this, she replied, "These centers remind women about faith. Faith is a key component to pregnancy, and that's what women who have abortions lack." Johnson said she couldn't speak more specifically on the pregnancy centers because she'd never been in one—she'd just traveled from Longview to support her church group.
Other opponents seemed confused about the funding that some of the centers get. "[They] are not costing the government a penny," argued Martha Hayden, a sweet old woman I sat next to in the Senate Gallery. She's wrong. Many limited-service pregnancy centers do receive public money through funding for abstinence-only sex education.
Hayden sported an "I (heart) Pregnancy Resource Centers" button with pride, as most opponents of the bill did, and she had nothing but glowing things to say about limited-service pregnancy centers—even though she'd never used their services. When I asked her about the claims that some of the centers withhold patients' pregnancy tests, she replied, "I don't think there's a problem with that."
"I don't think there's a problem with that" was a popular response to my questions. In so many words, people didn't see a problem with centers withholding information from women—from pregnancy and STI tests to basic birth control information. It's frightening that these people can argue against restrictions on pregnancy centers while simultaneously failing to acknowledge that their views and methodologies severely restrict women's health care options.
When I asked Hayden about women who come to the clinics and ultimately seek abortion care elsewhere, Hayden simply said, "These women can get their lives turned around and become viable, usable people in our society."
Most of the bill's opponents probably identify as pro-life. But if the centers remain unregulated, they could prevent women from accessing prenatal care through their practice of withholding pregnancy test results. In Washington, women cannot access assistance with prenatal care through Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) without the results of a positive pregnancy test. According to Dr. Kate McLean, "A delay in prenatal care can lead to an increase in maternal and infant death."
Intentionally delaying prenatal care isn't exactly in lockstep with all that concern for the unborn. The centers are, arguably, putting the health of fetuses, not to mention women, at risk—that's why passing this legislation is so important.