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Pregnancy services bill passes Senate

by Angelica Relente, Herald Legislative Writer
| February 18, 2021 1:00 AM

A bill that would ensure women can receive services for pregnancy complications passed in the Senate in a 29-20 vote during a virtual floor debate Wednesday.

“Pregnancy complications are serious,” Sen. Patty Kuderer, D-Bellevue, said during the virtual floor debate. “They can mean the life of the mother or long-term health consequences.”

Senate Bill 5140 would ensure health care providers can offer services related to pregnancy complications without hindrance from a public health entity, according to the bill’s text.

Services relating to pregnancy complications include “miscarriage management and treatment for ectopic pregnancies,” according to the bill’s text. A health care entity would not be allowed to demote, suspend or discipline a provider for offering those services.

Kuderer said not all women in the state receive timely and appropriate medical care. Some patients were denied medical care at an urgent time during their pregnancy.

“No person suffering from pregnancy complications should ever have to wonder … if they’re going to get appropriate medical care,” Kuderer said.

Even medical providers have suffered consequences from their higher-ups for wanting to offer pregnancy-complications-related services, Kuderer said.

Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, said during the virtual floor debate SB 5140 “contains a Trojan horse.” She also said hospitals have said they never encountered the issues the bill addresses.

“Women are getting the care,” Rivers said. “We have no maternal mortality from this.”

Sen. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake, voted in opposition to SB 5140. Warnick said during the virtual floor debate she does not know of hospitals that do not take reasonable steps to protect the life of a mother and child.

Warnick said she is concerned SB 5140 may be a step closer to forcing hospitals or clinics to support voluntary terminations of pregnancies.

“It goes against my grain to vote ‘no’ on a bill titled protecting pregnancy and miscarriage-related patient care, but as the former speaker said, I think there is something enclosed in this bill that could be a Trojan horse,” Warnick said.

Warnick’s amendment, which would define the term miscarriage, was not adopted. Miscarriage would be defined as “pregnancy that occurs up to 20 weeks gestation and by spontaneous abortion.”

Sen. Jeannie Darneille, D-Tacoma, said during the debate language in a bill matters. Describing cutoff points for pregnancy is not in the best interest of pregnant women.

Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond, shared a story during the debate about a woman who was turned away by a Bellingham Catholic hospital three times in 2019. The woman nearly died from an infection threatening her pregnancy.

“She was turned away from the emergency room without being told that her life was in danger,” Dhingra said.

The woman’s obstetrician could not perform surgery on her, Dhingra said, because the hospital’s ethics committee would need to convene and approve the surgery first. While the woman waited for the committee, she had a miscarriage in a bathroom.

“This scenario, unfortunately, is not that uncommon,” Dhingra said. “This is why this bill is so critically needed.”

Senators also approved SB 5229 (35-14) during the virtual floor debate. Both SB 5140 and SB 5229 will move to House committees.