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Women’s health legislation pushes forward this week in Olympia

This week, the legislature passed three significant bills that expand access to women’s health care options.

Senate bill 6219, also known as the Reproductive Parity Act, cleared the Senate by a 26-22 vote on Wednesday. The bill would require every health care plan that covers maternity care to also cover contraception and abortion services.

“Washington State has long strived to ensure women control their own reproductive destiny,” said the bill’s sponsor Senator Steve Hobbs. “This bill guarantees that right and also helps provide a little more certainty for women in our state. This is also well-timed because it comes at a moment when the uncertainty coming from the other Washington is at an all-time high.”

The bill would allow women to access these reproductive health services free of cost sharing requirements, copays, or deductibles. This would ensure that women of any socioeconomic status have the same access to these services. Section 1 of the law states:

Access to contraception has been directly connected to the economic success of women and the ability of women to participate in society equally.

Neither a woman’s income level nor her type of insurance should prevent her from having access to a full range of reproductive health care, including contraception and abortion services.

Originally introduced by Senator Hobbs in 2012, the bill has failed to make it to the Senate floor over the past several years when Democrats were in the minority. The Reproductive Parity Act is scheduled for a public hearing in the House Health Care & Wellness committee on Feb 7.

The Senate also passed two bills, SB 5912 and SB 5084, that allow women to access more accurate and complete information about their health. SB 5912 would require health insurance providers to cover 3D mammography, which has been shown to improve early detection of breast cancer by 40 percent. SB 5084 passed unanimously out of the Senate and would require radiologists to provide information on patient’s breast density after a mammogram.

“This legislation simply allows a woman access to the same breast health information as her doctor,” said prime sponsor Senator Rolfes. “Knowledge is power, and this legislation will give patients the tools to make smart decisions and ask better questions about their own health.”

On Wednesday, following the passage of these three bills, Senate Majority Leader Sharon Nelson said,

“Today we made a statement that a woman should have complete control of her reproductive destiny. These rights are constantly under attack, especially at this moment in our nation’s history.”

“Washingtonians have long considered themselves leaders when it comes to granting access to women’s healthcare, and the state Senate is continuing that tradition.”