Opinion: Voters deserve the opportunity to ‘Reject 5599’

Clark County Today Editor Ken Vance believes Washington lawmakers need to get out of the parenting business.

Clark County Today Editor Ken Vance believes Washington lawmakers need to get out of the parenting business

Ken Vance, editor
Clark County Today

Democrat lawmakers in the state of Washington believe, at least in some very critical situations involving significant medical decisions, that the government is better equipped to parent our children than we are. If you think I’ve lost my mind, keep reading.

Editor Ken Vance
Editor Ken Vance

During the 2023 legislative session, Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5599, was passed. Every Democrat in the Washington State Legislature – in both the Senate and House – voted for it and every Republican voted against it. Sen. Ann Rivers said recently that over 90 percent of public comments received by lawmakers on 5599 were from citizens who opposed the bill, and still the Democrat lawmakers passed it. 

The bill addresses homeless or runaway youth seeking what’s referred to as “protected health care services.” In this new law, the services are spelled out as “gender-related medical intervention’’ – such as puberty blockers, sex change surgeries, and mastectomies – as well as “reproductive health care” or abortions. In the bill, certain shelters and organizations are exempt from the requirement to contact the parents when the child enters the shelter. Instead, the shelters contact the state. 

It’s written in state law, “The secretary of state has no duty to confirm that a host home program is meeting its statutory requirements.” When such a youth enters the shelter, they’re then placed under the guardianship of the host home under the Department of Youth and Family (DCYF). Those guardians can then give the child consent for gender-related services or abortion. There is no minimum age enumerated in the bill. 

An additional outrage is the parents will be given the bill for the “medical services” their child receives. Yet they will have had no knowledge or say so regarding the providing of those “services.’

My son is now 32 years old. During his childhood years, he wasn’t a perfect child, but thankfully he was for the most part, compliant and obedient. He had a couple of medical procedures during his childhood and thankfully his mother and I were in complete control of those decisions. I can’t even fathom the idea that during those years it would be possible for him to have a medical procedure without our consent, or even notification. I tell you, if that would have happened, I would have gone looking for a pint of blood or a pound of flesh from someone and I wouldn’t have stopped until I got it.

I am told that it is very rare in this country that gender mutilation procedures are performed on minors. I would hope that it would never be done. It is my belief that any physician or surgeon who performs a gender mutilation procedure on a minor should lose their medical license. And, if they do it without the parent’s consent, they should go to jail.

The Reject 5599 effort

A group of Washington residents have written and submitted Referendum 101 with the slogan “Reject 5599’’ in order to take the matter to voters. 

“What the new law does,” the Reject 5599 website reads, “is rebrand involved parents as abusers so that shelters and host homes can contact DCYF instead of the parents to notify families of their child’s whereabouts.” 

Gov. Jay Inslee said, “If a young person is totally estranged from their parents and has no meaningful relationship we need someone to care for that child and the way the legislation is set up is essentially, the Department of Children Youth and Families will step in to that position to care for that child so you have someone looking out for their benefit. In the real world we want these kids to be protected and not homeless and that’s basically the reason for this bill.” 

So, let me get this straight, the underlying sentiment here is that if a child under the age of 18, wants to get “gender-related medical intervention” or “reproductive health care” and a parent is against their child having those procedures, the state can step in under the premise that that is abuse? If that’s the case, this is a society I don’t want to live in.

We have had many laws in this country that limit children’s actions and ability to make decisions for themselves. They can’t get a driver’s license until they’re 16 years of age. They are not allowed to vote until they’re 18. They’re not allowed to purchase alcohol until they’re 21. Why do we have these laws? It’s because children don’t have the maturity, wisdom and life experience to make every decision by themselves. They are also too susceptible to being influenced. They can be coerced.

Again, relating back to my years as a parent of a minor child, my son’s mother and I made a rule that our child could not get a tattoo or a piercing while he was still under the age of 18. In fact, I believe we extended that moratorium to continue throughout the time that we were supporting him (college years etc.) It was never an issue because he never wanted either. But, my question is, what if he did want a tattoo or a piercing while he was a minor? Would his mother and I have been accused of child abuse? What about the age-old adage, “my house my rules?’’

I’m not ignoring the fact that children in our state, or community, are abused and neglected. There is real abuse and neglect that takes place for many reasons, including in situations of gender dysphoria or early pregnancies. But, don’t we already have Child Protective Services in our community, in our state? If a child is truly being abused or neglected, absolutely we as a society need to come to their aid. But, I think many of us have a strong disagreement about what constitutes abuse or neglect of a child.

The signature-gathering process

As reporter Leah Anaya shared with Clark County Today readers recently,  advocates working on gathering signatures for Referendum 101 say that they are certainly in favor of protecting youth, but not in the way that 5599 changes things. Runaway youth, they say as did I, already have access to shelters and services as needed. But 5599 gives explicit rights to the state to consent to children undergoing major medical procedures related to the child’s gender, or to get an abortion, while removing parents from the equation altogether. 

Locations will be set up all over Washington state in an effort to gather the necessary 200,000 signatures by July 15 (20,000 of which are required of Clark County) to get Referendum 101 on the ballot. The Reject 5599 website will also include an interactive map to find a signing location, and anyone can sign up on the website to volunteer to gather signatures.

A table has been set up at Vancouver Mall for the group Let’s Go Washington, which will also include petitions for Referendum 101. The table will be set up this whole week until 7 p.m. Saturday and then again July 5-14, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

It is my hope that you will feel compelled to sign the petition. Voters deserve the opportunity to “Reject 5599.’’

Editor’s note: Information from reporter Leah Anaya was included in this column.

Should Washington voters have the opportunity to Reject ESSB 5599?*
712 votes

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