By T.J. MARTINELL | THE CENTER SQUARE
A Washington bill that would allow youth shelters, host homes, and state agencies to not report runaway youths seeking abortions or irreversible gender surgeries has cleared the Legislature.
SB 5599 initially passed in both chambers, but was sent back to the Senate for concurrence with several House amendments, receiving an 29-20 vote on April 19.
The bill has sparked strong controversy for what critics say is a direct assault on parental rights and due process due to how it adds a new reason to not report runaway minors to their parents or legal guardians that does not involve neglect or abuse.
While bill sponsor Sen. Marko Liias, D-Mukilteo, says the proposal “it is simply about housing an emergency shelter for young people who are unsheltered in our state,” it tacks on another “compelling reason” for shelters and host homes to not alert parents or legal guardians of their child’s whereabouts as otherwise required.
An existing state statute allows them not to do so if there are “circumstances that indicate that notifying the parent or legal guardian will subject the minor to abuse or neglect,” both of which are classified as crimes.
SB 5599 adds “when a minor is seeking or receiving protected health care services” to the compelling reasons to not notify parents that their runaway child is at the shelter or host home.
There already exists a state definition of “gender affirming care” that includes but is not limited to the following procedures:
- Breast augmentation
- Chemical peel
- Facial feminization surgeries
- Face lift
- Facial masculinization surgeries
- Forehead brow lift
- Genital modification
- Hairline modification
- Hair removal by electrolysis or laser
- Lip enhancement
- Reduction thyroid chondroplasty (chondrolaryngoplasty or tracheal shave)
- Skin resurfacing
- Penile implant
- Voice modification
Under existing state law, minors can get abortions or irreversible gender surgeries without parental notification.
One of the House amendments requires that the Department of Children, Youth, and Families offer the runaway minor services that include “accomplish a reunification of the family.” Another amendment requires a state agency collect data on the number of unsheltered homeless youth in the state.
Senate Republicans rejected the bill due to what Sen. Matt Boehnke, R-Kennewick, described as “issues with the parents not being a part of this, the family members as well.”
Conservative Ladies of Washington President Julie Barrett described it in a tweet as “state sanctioned kidnapping,” saying it would allow “the state taking your kids with no wrongdoing on your part.” The bill does not state when and if the parents or legal guardians must be eventually notified of their child’s whereabouts.
SB 5599 will now be sent to Gov. Jay Inslee for signing. The bill takes effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns.