News

Oregon House passes abortion-funding bill

On 33-23 vote; now goes to Senate

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - The Oregon House has advanced a $10 million reproductive health care bill that would require insurance companies in the state to cover abortions and a variety of other services at no cost to the patient.

The bill passed Saturday in a 33-23 vote, and it now heads to the Senate.

Almost $500,000 would be used in the 2017-19 budget period to expand abortion and reproductive health coverage to immigrants who are otherwise ineligible for insurance under the Oregon Health Plan - the state's Medicaid program that currently spends almost $2 million a year to pay for roughly 3,500 abortions statewide.

Other services that must be covered include birth control, prenatal and post-partum care and screenings for cancer and STDs.

House Bill 3391 includes exemptions for employers opposed to abortions and contraception for religious reasons.

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News release from Oregon House Democrats:

House Democrats Vote to Protect and Expand Reproductive Health Care
HB 3391, the Reproductive Health Equity Act, passes 33-23

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.

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.

“I believe that affordable access to reproductive health care shouldn’t depend on who you are, where you live, or how much you earn,” says Rep. Julie Fahey (D-West Eugene & Junction City). “Health care is a basic human right.”

HB 3391 requires health insurance plans to cover a full range of contraceptive and preventative care without cost sharing, including STD screenings, certain cancer screenings, vasectomies, IUD insertion, and abortion.

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. This program also includes coverage for 60 days of postpartum care, providing critical coverage to the 48,000 Oregonians who have coverage for labor and delivery that stops immediately after birth.

Over the course of several months, the legislature heard testimony from numerous Oregonians about the need for access to affordable reproductive health care, including from transgender and gender-nonconforming Oregonians who have been denied key coverage because of their gender identity. HB 3391 prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender.

“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 House Majority Leader Jennifer Williamson (D-SW & NW Portland). “I believe this bill makes sure all Oregonians have affordable access to the care they deserve in order to make decisions about their health.”

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.

“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 Rep. Jeff Barker (D-Aloha), a retired police officer and chief sponsor of the bill. “When people are healthy, they’re able to work, able to care for their families, and are spending less money on emergency services. This benefits them individually, but it also benefits the economies of our local communities. Communities in which prosperity is widespread are communities with less crime, less violence, and less turmoil.”

The Reproductive Health Equity Act passed 33-23 and will now be taken up by the Senate. 

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News release from Oregon House Republicans:

House Republicans unanimously oppose partisan abortion legislation

HB 3391 is an assault on religious liberty, expends taxpayer funds to support abortions

Salem, Ore. - House Republicans today stood in unanimous opposition to HB 3391, legislation which provides taxpayer funding for abortions and requires Oregon health insurance plans to offer coverage for abortions, including elective late-term pregnancy terminations. Republicans argued the bill would require Oregon employers with deeply held religious beliefs to violate their own moral convictions and force Oregon taxpayers to foot the bill for abortions.

“It’s extremely disheartening that House Democrats have decided to move forward with this bill despite overwhelming concerns from employers and religious Oregonians,” said Representative Jodi Hack (R-Salem). “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.”

HB 3391 requires health plans sold in Oregon to include coverage for a wide range of reproductive health care services including, most controversially, pregnancy terminations. 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. Only entities that meet the narrow definition of “religious employer” detailed in ORS 743A.066 would be exempt from the abortion requirement.

“If an Oregon employer chooses not to provide abortion coverage, that does not mean an Oregon worker is going to be denied access to reproductive care,” continued Rep. Hack. “Nothing prevents an Oregonian from seeking additional coverage if they feel the coverage options provided by their employer are inadequate.”

The nonpartisan Legislative Revenue Office estimates that HB 3391 will cost Oregon taxpayers more than $10,000,000 to implement, with a significant portion of that money used specifically to fund abortion procedures. An analyst with the Oregon Health Authority testified before the Joint Ways and Means Committee that roughly $500,000 taxpayer dollars would be used pay for abortions.

“At a time when we are being forced to make so many difficult choices in many areas of our budget, I am disappointed that this Legislature has decided to put this bill and its $10 million price tag ahead of so many other critical priorities,” said Representative Duane Stark (R-Grants Pass). “I do not believe this bill represents an appropriate use of taxpayer dollars.”

Republicans also noted that HB 3391 may be in violation of The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which prohibits any government from substantially burdening a person’s exercise of religion except in limited circumstances. The United States Supreme Court cited RFRA when it ruled in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby that Hobby Lobby could not be compelled to purchase health plans that included certain kinds of contraceptive care that violated the corporation’s religious beliefs.

The bill may also ultimately be found in violation of a federal law known as the Weldon amendment. The law, which has been in place since 2004, prohibits state governments from requiring health insurance providers to cover abortions. If HB 3391 is signed into law and Oregon is found in violation of the Weldon amendment, the state could stand to lose millions of dollars of financial support from the federal government.

“There are several very serious legal issues with this bill,” said House Republican Leader Mike McLane (R-Powell Butte). “Thousands of Oregonians rely on our state government for Medicaid and other healthcare services that are funded primarily by the federal government. If HB 3391 is found to be in violation of federal law, all of those resources could suddenly be at risk.”

HB 3391 passed the House on a 33-23 vote, with one Democrat joining Republicans in voting no. The bill now moves to the Senate for further consideration.

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News release from Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon

PRO-CHOICE COALITION OF OREGON PRESS RELEASE

The Oregon House of Representatives today passed nationally significant legislation that will guarantee reproductive health equity for Oregonians. The Reproductive Health Equity Act (House Bill 3391) will ensure that every Oregonian can decide when and whether to become a parent - regardless of income, type of insurance, citizenship status or gender identity.

Oregonians need quality medical care to prevent problems before they start, which results in stronger health outcomes, lower healthcare costs and a stronger economy. Limitations on reproductive health services can have profoundly harmful effects on public health, disproportionately impacting low-income women, women of color, immigrant women, young women, rural women, survivors of domestic violence, and transgender and gender-nonconforming people.

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. If adopted by the Senate, HB 3391 will:

* Safeguard the right to abortion if Roe v. Wade were overturned.

* Protect no-cost coverage for preventive reproductive health care for every Oregonian with commercial health insurance if the Affordable Care Act were overturned.

* Expand post-partum care to about 48,000 Oregonians of reproductive age who have coverage for labor and delivery that drops immediately after birth.

* Make safe, legal abortion more affordable and accessible for about 43,000 Oregon women of reproductive age who have high-deductible policies.

* Help more than 18,600 Oregon women of reproductive age who are forced to pay out-of-pocket costs for preventive health services, including contraception.

* Remove procedural barriers that hinder access to lifesaving cancer screenings for transgender and gender-nonconforming Oregonians.

House Majority Leader Jennifer Williamson, Representatives Jeff Barker and Julie Fahey, and Senators Richard Devlin and Laurie Monnes Anderson are the chief sponsors of the bill, which is co-sponsored by 21 State Representatives and 10 State Senators. 

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News release from Oregon House Republican Office:

Democrats reject bill banning late-term sex selective abortions

Salem, Ore. - Prior to debate on HB 3391, which provides taxpayer funding for abortions and requires Oregon health insurance plans to offer coverage for pregnancy terminations, House Democrats today voted down a bill that would ban late-term sex selective abortions. HB 2588 was killed when a motion to withdraw the measure from committee was defeated on a party-line vote.

“There are wide range of views on abortion in Oregon, so I was hopeful that we could at least have a discussion about HB 2588 and our state’s policy on late-term abortions based on the gender of a child,” said Representative Sherrie Sprenger (R-Scio). “Oregon has arguably the most liberal abortion laws in the country. I am disappointed that our effort to add some common sense to our laws was rejected today.”

Had HB 2588 passed, the bill would make it illegal to perform late-term abortions in Oregon if “undertaken solely because of the known or suspected sex of the unborn child.” The bill was referred to the House Health Care Committee on January 9, 2017. Democrats refused to give the measure a hearing. At least seven other states already ban the practice.

The motion to withdraw HB 2588 from committee failed on a 22-34 vote.


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