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House Bill 1469: How Washington plans to protect reproductive and gender-affirming care

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Protestors gather in Downtown Seattle in the summer of 2022 — Photo by Lindsey Anderson
Protestors gather in Downtown Seattle in the summer of 2022 — Photo by Lindsey Anderson

With the overturning of Roe v. Wade, people in states with laws banning abortion have sought care in Washington. Similarly, laws banning gender-affirming health care have also motivated residents of other states to travel here. With the influx of people seeking care, there have been concerns about whether other states could pursue legal action against Washington patients and providers.

On March 16, the Washington State Legislature's Senate Committee on Law and Justice held a public hearing. One of the bills discussed was HB 1469, potential legislation referred to as a shield law. If passed, gender-affirming and reproductive care would be defined as protected services. If this bill passes into law, Washington would be a haven for those seeking such treatment. It would also remove any confusion or fear that another state's judicial system might prosecute doctors for providing these services.

State Rep. Drew Hansen — Photo courtesy of WA House Democrats  

Rep. Drew Hansen spoke in favor of the bill, saying, "If other states want to be creative and aggressive in restricting abortion, Washington state can be creative and aggressive in fighting back... [The bill] eliminates the ability of other states to commandeer Washington state courts and judicial processes to enforce their own laws."

People as far as Texas are escaping the draconian anti-abortion laws there to seek life-saving care here. Dr. Crystal Beal, representing the Western Washington Pediatric and Adolescent Gender Care Network, spoke at the hearing, on the issue of families searching for gender-affirming care: "We have seen dozens of youths and families moving or traveling to Washington to access gender-affirming care as health care becomes less accessible or banned in surrounding states... This legislation will save Trans youth lives."

Cara Winter, a concerned citizen and mother of two, gave testimony based on her life experiences. She described how she has struggled with fertility issues and had suffered four miscarriages in her attempts to become a mother. Winter eventually succeeded in having two children and did not believe she could conceive again without fertility treatments.

However, at 39 years old, she found out she was pregnant. She said, "I can't handle an unplanned, high-risk, geriatric pregnancy with two little kids at home." Winter received an abortion out of concern for her health and hoped that other pregnant people could have the choice she had.

Not all who testified were in support. Representatives of the Conservative Ladies of Washington, Human Life of Washington, and Family Policy Institute of Washington came to express opposition to the bill. Their main argument was that, if passed, this bill, combined with Senate Bill 5599, would make the trafficking of children easier. SB 5599, if passed, would prevent guardians of homeless or runaway children from being notified if there is a compelling reason to believe that notification would lead to abuse or neglect of the child. A compelling reason includes when a child is seeking protected services.

Brad Payne of the Family Policy Institute said, "This bill and others in a long line of bills in session are promoting abortion, gender mutilation, and the erosion of parental rights." He said that this bill would potentially shield children from their guardian's "choice to intervene" and take their ability to "speak out against their children's health concerns."

Rebekah Gardea of the QLaw Foundation approved of the bill, saying, "Point blank, this bill will save lives."

Dr. Katina Rue, DO, representing the Washington State Medical Association, testified as well: "The new patchwork of legality and the interplay between differing state laws has created a lot of uncertainty. The point of those restrictive laws is to engender fear. ...Washington state physicians are dedicated to continuing to provide the full range of care services, including abortion and gender-affirming care, to our patients."

More naysayers testified, including Alex Chrostowski with Gays Against Groomers; Oli London, a detransition activist; and a concerned citizen only going by "Team Freedom." The consensus among those against the bill was that they believe children will get gender-reassignment surgery. (In fact, hormone treatment and bottom surgery is unavailable until age 18 in Washington.)

A purposeful or accidental misunderstanding of gender-affirming care and parents' say in their children's lives was made very apparent when concerned citizen Gabriel Jacobs testified. Through tears, he described how his child expressed that they identified as a boy at 16 and how their child attempted suicide multiple times. Then at 18, their son made an appointment for hormone therapy against Jacobs' wishes. Jacobs then lamented that "children are eating Tide pods and setting themselves on fire for social media," and that their son's gender identity was the product of peer pressure.

Protestors gather in Downtown Seattle in the summer of 2022 — Photo by Lindsey Anderson  

At the crux of this issue are bodily autonomy and state rights. Washington has already decided in favor of providing abortions and gender-affirming care. This shield law would protect our state's right to practice these services without intervention. It would put into law the principle that, just as one could argue that Washington does not have the right to impose its laws on other states, other states do not have the right to impose their laws on Washington.

HB 1469 was scheduled to be discussed in an executive session on March 22.