Inslee demands Senate vote on abortion coverage bill

Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee turned up the rhetorical heat another notch today in his fight with the Republican-dominated state Senate on an abortion rights bill.

Inslee has promised to sign the Reproductive Parity Act requiring most insurers pay for abortions, if it reaches his desk. But opponents in the Senate have foiled every attempt to even conduct a hearing on the legislation.

“Washington state doesn’t deserve just a hearing on the Reproductive Parity Act. It deserves a vote in the state Senate,” he said at a rally of abortion rights supporters at the Capitol. “I’m going to make this happen.”

Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, the leader of the Majority Coalition in the Senate, was standing behind Inslee at the time and didn’t join in the applause for the governor. Though Tom reportedly supports the bill, he’s not been willing to force the issue within the coalition.

Meanwhile, Inslee didn’t reveal how he plans to keep his pledge to get a vote taken.

“I have several million people, including several million women, who will eventually make it clear they want democracy,” he said.

When asked if he might consider vetoing bills or using the budget to pressure senators, he said it was “too early in the session to start waving red pens but I think people know how strongly I feel about this. I do not intend to go quietly.”

Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, and Sen. Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island, have introduced three drafts of the bill but Tom’s foiled their attempts at getting a hearing.

They may get a chance soon. The House of Representatives is expected to pass its version of the Reproductive Parity Act later this week. Litzow said today he’s been assured a hearing will be held on the House bill when it arrives in the Senate.

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