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As Congress moves forward with immigration reform, we take a look at how this issue connects to culture, business and families in the Northwest.Our region is home to a unique blend of immigrants who work in all parts of our economy — from high-tech to agriculture. This population already has a deeply-rooted history here. And its ranks are expanding rapidly.Proposals for comprehensive immigration reform address border security, employment verification, guest-worker programs and pathway to citizenship for an estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the US.

Bill aims to cover abortion, birth control for undocumented Washington residents

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Autumn Lindsey told lawmakers she opposes efforts to expand abortion services.

Immigrants without legal status are not eligible for government healthcare plans, like Medicaid.

More than a dozen Washington lawmakers want to create a program to cover some of these immigrants' reproductive healthcare needs, including abortion, birth control and family planning.

A senate committee in Olympia heard testimony Monday on the proposed measure.

University of Washington student Liliana Rasmussen spoke in support of the bill, saying healthcare is a human right.

“None of us should have to make the financial decision between buying books and paying for tuition and rent, and paying basic healthcare,” Rasmussen said. “None of us should be able to determine who is qualified to receive care.”

Dozens of people showed up to testify at the hearing, including several young women wearing t-shirts that said "I am the pro-life generation."

Among them was Autumn Lindsey, who spoke out against the measure.

“I oppose this bill because I believe in protecting the lives of the pre-born. To  say this bill helps women is a lie,” Lindsey said.

Linday encouraged the senators to pass laws that protect American people of any age, status or race. But she said laws that support abortion are a step in the wrong direction.

Bill sponsors said the aim is to provide reproductive healthcare to all state residents, regardless of a person's citizenship status or gender. The bill would also extend reproductive health coverage to transgender individuals.

Senator Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, said this legislation comes at a critical time.

"These services are under an all-out assault from our federal administration," Ranker told the Senate committee. 

Ranker, who introduced this bill, said he's talked with lawmakers in at least seven states who are considering similar legislation this year. 

The Oregon legislature passed a similar measure in 2017.

Year started with KUOW: 2006