Washington senators hear conflicting testimony on ‘shield law’
Senators heard conflicting comments for a bill that would restrict other states from enforcing anti-abortion laws in Washington on Thursday.
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Members of the Senate Law and Justice Committee discussed House Bill 1469 during a public hearing.
“The bill, in brief, restricts the ability of other states to use Washington State courts and [the] Washington state judicial process to enforce their laws against abortion,” bill sponsor Rep. Drew Hansen (D-Bainbridge Island) said. “Even before the Supreme Court leaked its draft opinion in Dobbs, we were aware that other states were acting in creative and aggressive ways to restrict abortion.”
Hansen cited Texas’s Senate Bill 8, which rewards citizens with a cash “bounty” if they succeed in suing anyone who has helped a resident get an illegal abortion.
“If other states want to be creative and aggressive in restricting abortion, Washington State can be creative and aggressive in fighting back,” Hansen said. “And that’s exactly what this bill does. It eliminates the ability of other states to commandeer Washington state courts and judicial processes to enforce their own laws.”
Joe McKittrick, committee staff, said that if the bill was enacted, it would include gender-affirming treatment and reproductive healthcare services in the state’s definition for protected healthcare services.
“The bill establishes that it is the state’s public policy to protect the provision in insurance coverage of protected healthcare services, regardless of the location of the person receiving services,” McKittrick said. “Courts would be prohibited from issuing an out-of-state subpoena compelling a witness in Washington to testify in a criminal prosecution or grand jury investigation in another state, or a criminal warrant subpoena or order if it relates to the provision or receipt of protected healthcare services.”
The bill would exclude any person from being extradited to another state if the demand states that the person sought is charged with a crime related to the provision or receipt of protected healthcare services in the requesting state, McKittrick said.
Washington State Medical Association President Katina Rue testified in support of HB 1469.
“On behalf of more than 12,500 physicians and physician assistants from across the state, I want to share our whole-hearted support for HB 1469,” Rue said. “Since the fall of Roe, Washington state physicians have been concerned about how the laws of other states may impact us here, whether it be potential exposure to criminal penalties or civil lawsuits.”
The new elements of legality and interplay between state laws around reproductive health since Roe was overturned has created a lot of uncertainty, Rue said.
“The point of those restrictive laws is to engender fear,” she said. “But let me be clear, Washington State physicians are dedicated to continuing to provide the full range of reproductive healthcare services, including abortion and gender-affirming care to our patients. This bill will offer more clarity and protections for both patients and the healthcare provider community in response to the evolving national landscape, shielding us to the extent possible from the negative actions of other states.”
Alex Chrostowski, the Washington chapter lead for Gays Against Groomers (whose website defines it as a coalition against the sexualization, indoctrination, and medicalization of children) testified in opposition to HB 1469. The Advocate, a magazine that supports LGBTQ rights, claims Gays Against Groomers is an outfit consisting of right-wing operatives that poses as a grassroots organization.
Chrostowski said that HB 1469, when combined with Senate Bill 5599 (a bill that would provide protections for runaway or homeless youths seeking protected healthcare services) would create conditions suitable for child sex trafficking or abduction.
“When HB 1469 is combined with SB 5599, at worst it creates the perfect conditions for child sex trafficking, and at best creates an incentive for individuals to abuse the conditions outlined in the bill to violate custody agreements, or to abduct a child in the middle of a contentious divorce,” Chrostowski said. “Instances of this are already occurring in California, and it will happen here too.”
Chrostowski said it is ironic that HB 1469 is also known as “the shield law.”
“You are not shielding children, you are shielding those that would abuse them,” she said. “Gender-affirming care is a disgusting euphemism for child abuse. The medicalization and mutilation of children should not be protected. With this law, Washington is attempting to usurp the authority of other states. HB 1469 attempts, in multiple ways, to refuse the legal inquiries and subpoenas of other states. It pertains, in many ways, to gender-affirming care. There are several states that have banned gender-affirming care for minors, and more will follow.”
Beth Daranciang also testified in opposition to HB 1469, and said it will encourage minors to travel to Washington without their parents knowing.
“And in conjunction with SB 5599, could lead to them being hidden from parents in other states desperately worried about them,” Daranciang said. “Encouraging minors to run away from home and cross state lines causes an extreme risk factor for becoming a victim of sex trafficking and other exploitation. These bills endanger children, will devastate families, and put the state in danger of severe legal consequences.”
HB 1469 was approved by the House on Feb. 28th. No action was taken on the bill on Thursday, but it is scheduled for an executive session on Wednesday.