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Catholic Conference Mounts Challenge to Free Abortions for All in Oregon

The Oregon Catholic Conference isn’t willing to let legislation “which forces all Oregon taxpayers to help finance an extremist abortion agenda” remain the law of the land for long.

The conference has started a petition drive aimed at putting the Stop Taxpayer Funding for Abortions Act on the state’s 2018 ballot to prevent the legislature from every doing anything like that again.

The Catholic Conference’s proposal is an effort to kill House Bill 3391, the “Reproductive Health Equity Act of 2017.” In addition to forcing insurance companies to cover abortions, the legislation also “codifies the right to abortion care, even if Roe v. Wade is ever overturned.”

“By insisting on complete insurance coverage of abortion, including late-term and sex-selective abortions, the legislature shows itself intolerant of widely-held opposing views and will compel thousands of Oregonians to support what their conscience rejects,” the Oregon Catholic Conference said.

There are exemptions for insurers whose religious beliefs don’t approve of abortion or contraception – birth control and vasectomies are included in the bill – but that doesn’t mean women (or men) covered by those companies would go without.

The taxpayers of Oregon, through the state’s general fund, would pay the medical bills of anyone whose insurance company refuses to pay on religious grounds.

That’s the provision that really makes Oregon’s Reproductive Health Equity Act of 2017 exceptional. California requires small group and individual insurance policies to cover abortions. Massachusetts mandates that abortions needed for medical reasons be covered by insurers.

But no other legislature has written into a state’s law that all abortions, for whatever reason, must be covered. The Reproductive Equity Act includes illegal immigrants under its umbrella. Taxpayer money, from Oregon’s general fund, would pay for their abortions.

“All Oregonians – regardless of citizenship status – should have the freedom to decide if and when they have children based on what’s best for them and their family’s circumstances,” said Linda Roman, director of health policy and government relations for the Oregon Latino Health Coalition.

The Oregon Legislature approved HB 3391 earlier this month, although the bill failed to receive a single GOP vote.

Republican state Rep. Mike Nearman said he couldn’t understand why Oregon needed a bill forcing insurance companies to pay for abortions for all women, even those who are in the U.S. illegally.

“This is Oregon,” Nearman said as he and other GOPers lined up against the bill. “There [are] no legal restrictions on anyone’s right to get an abortion. You can get an abortion at any time for any reason. Even sex selection.”

That’s all true. But as soon as Gov. Kate Brown signs the legislation, nobody will have to pay for an abortion.

Nearman said Brown’s signature would move Oregon from allowing any woman to receive an abortion to a state to advocating for the procedure.

State Rep. Bill Post (R) said he was “heartbroken” by the GOP caucus’ failure to stop the bill. Post also warned as soon as it becomes law, abortions would increase by at least 3,000 every year in Oregon.

And there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Brown will make it the law in Oregon.

“Yes! Yes! Yes!,” Brown tweeted enthusiastically after the Oregon Senate approved the legislation.

“The ability to control our bodies and make informed decisions about health are critical to providing all Oregonians the opportunity to achieve our full potential and live productive, thriving lives,” Brown later wrote in an email to the Washington Times.

Gayle Atteberry, executive director of Oregon Right to Life, called HB 3391 “morally reprehensible because it will take the lives of even more innocent Oregonians.”

Atteberry also charged the legislation was a thinly veiled attempt to prop up Planned Parenthood if Congress or the Trump administration should cut off the organization’s federal funding.

Senate Republicans issued a statement after HB 3391 was approved in which they charged the legislation was nothing  “but a political gift card to Planned Parenthood that brought unnecessary drama and divisiveness to the end of the legislative session.”

There is no doubt that Planned Parenthood and other pro-choice groups like this new Oregon law if only because it “will ensure that every Oregonian can decide when and whether to become a parent.”

“Rights don’t matter if you can’t access them,” said Laurel Swerdlow, advocacy director for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon. “Every Oregonian – no matter where they live or how much money they make or who provides their health insurance – deserves access to the health care they need.”