Democrats in the Oregon state House have passed a bill that would provide free abortions for all girls and women in the state – including illegal immigrants.
In a press statement following the state House’s approval of the bill, the Democrats condemned President Donald Trump’s pro-life agenda.
“While the Trump Administration and Congressional Republicans in D.C. continue their efforts to slash access to women’s health, Democrats in the Oregon House today stood up to preserve and expand comprehensive reproductive health care to all Oregonians,” the lawmakers said, adding:
House Bill 3391, the Reproductive Health Equity Act, ensures that all Oregonians receive the full range of preventative reproductive health services they need at zero out-of-pocket cost – regardless of their income, citizenship status, gender identity, or type of insurance.
The bill passed, 33-23, with no Republican votes and one Democrat joining Republicans, and now heads to the state Senate.
In celebrating the passage of the bill, Oregon Democrats rebuked Republican-led state legislatures:
Republican-led legislatures in other states have been cutting reproductive care through draconian budget cuts and legislation making it harder for women to access critical services. Republican politicians in Washington D.C. are attempting to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would cause Oregonians to lose no-cost preventative reproductive health care and essential benefits. With HB 3391, Oregon will be moving boldly in the opposite direction, protecting and expanding access.
“I believe that affordable access to reproductive health care shouldn’t depend on who you are, where you live, or how much you earn,” state Rep. Julie Fahey says in the press statement. “Health care is a basic human right.”
“For people living paycheck to paycheck, denying coverage for abortion or birth control can jeopardize a family’s financial security and push them deeper into poverty,” says state House Majority Leader Jennifer Williamson.
“When everyone in our community has access to health care—including contraception, reproductive health services like STD diagnosis and treatment, pre- and post-partum care, and abortion—it improves the health of individuals, families, and entire communities,” says state Rep. Jeff Barker in the press release.
The bill is a $10 million measure focused on reproductive rights and would require all insurance companies in Oregon to cover abortions for any reason and other reproductive services, such as contraception and vasectomies, to anyone in the state, regardless of income, insurance plan, citizenship status, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
“It also requires that the Oregon Health Authority implement a program to reimburse the costs of reproductive health services to individuals who would be eligible for medical assistance if not for their immigration status,” the Democrat lawmakers say.
The bill earmarks some $500,000 for the Oregon Health Plan – the state’s Medicaid plan – for the approximately 22,873 illegal women immigrants, the Washington Times reports.
The measure also states it:
[P]rohibits interference by public body in consenting individual’s choice to terminate pregnancy. Prohibits public body’s interference with health care provider terminating or assisting in termination of pregnancy of health care provider’s patient, if health care provider is acting within scope of provider’s license.
Republicans attempted to block the measure with a failed motion to return it to committee. Democrats have the majority in both the state House and Senate and Gov. Kate Brown is also a Democrat.
Republican state Rep. Jodi Hack described the vote Saturday as “the saddest day I have experienced in the Oregon Legislature,” according to the Times.
“This highly contentious bill isn’t about health care or about people, it is a political gift card to Planned Parenthood,” said Jonathan Lockwood, communications director for the Senate Republican Caucus.
“Oregon has arguably the most liberal abortion laws in the country,” asserted GOP state Rep. Sherrie Sprenger. “I am disappointed that our effort to add some common sense to our laws was rejected today.”
Gayle Atteberry, Oregon Right to Life executive director, said Planned Parenthood will benefit from the measure and accused Democrats of paying back “one of their primary campaign supporters.”
“This terrible legislation is just another example of how Oregon’s largest abortion provider’s only real concern is for their financial bottom line,” Atteberry said. “The Oregon Health Authority testified [Thursday] that HB 3391-B will provide almost $500,000 more for abortions. Make no mistake: most of this money is going to Planned Parenthood.”
The Pro-Choice Coalition of Oregon, which includes Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon and NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon, worked for the bill’s passage and said in a statement:
The Pro-Choice Coalition of Oregon, which developed the legislation over the past two years with input from community leaders and legislators, applauded the elected leaders who recognized the urgent need to safeguard reproductive freedom and fill gaps in coverage that benefit millions of Oregonians.
While the bill provides an abortion exemption for churches and religious nonprofits, state House Republicans say the exemption is too narrow:
The bill’s extremely narrow religious exemption language would apply almost exclusively to churches and religious nonprofits, meaning thousands of employers with deeply held religious beliefs could be forced to violate their consciences by having few other options but to purchase health insurance plans that include abortion.
State Republicans also noted the measure could be found to be in violation of The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which the U.S. Supreme Court cited when it ruled in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby that Hobby Lobby could not be forced to purchase health plans that included certain kinds of contraceptive care that violated the corporation’s religious beliefs.
“It’s extremely disheartening that House Democrats have decided to move forward with this bill despite overwhelming concerns from employers and religious Oregonians,” Hack said. “Oregonians have a right to access reproductive care, but that does not mean Oregon employers should be forced to forfeit their right to hold true to their deeply held religious beliefs.”
Trump has promised to eliminate Planned Parenthood’s taxpayer funding as long as the group continues to perform abortions.