Abortion will be on the Oregon ballot in November with Measure 106, which would ban the state from using taxpayer money for abortions.
Currently, Oregon taxpayers are on the hook for abortions for women on the Oregon Health Plan, Oregon’s version of Medicaid for people in poverty. According to The Oregonian, a public records request revealed during 2015-2016 the Oregon Health Plan paid $2.4 million for 3,769 abortions.
Measure 106 would no longer allow state tax revenue to go toward funding abortions except in cases of rape, incest, ectopic pregnancies or when a qualified physician determines the mother will be seriously harmed or killed by continuing the pregnancy. It would affect the Oregon Health Plan and state employees who receive their health insurance through the state. Depending on how the law is interpreted, it could also affect coverage for public employees such as teachers.
Supporters of the measure say no one should be forced by the government to pay for something they find morally reprehensible. Peggy Willis, a member of Pendleton’s Right to Life chapter, believes “in life from the time of conception until natural death.”
“I believe life is a God-given gift, and it isn’t up to anybody to pull the plug,” she said.
To her, and many more like her around the state, abortion is taking an innocent life. Willis said while there are some cases where a woman’s life is in danger, in many cases women don’t want to have a baby because it would be “inconvenient” or they don’t want to raise a child with a disability like Down Syndrome.
The idea of any of her taxes funding abortion is difficult for her to think about.
“I do not believe we should have to pay to kill the baby,” she said.
Deanna Leonard of Hermiston’s Right to Life group said she feels Measure 106 is not extreme. Instead, she said, it protects Oregonians’ rights not to pay for something they find “horrific.”
“People can still get an abortion for any reason they choose, they just can’t do it with my tax money,” she said.
Opponents of Measure 106 take a different view. They say Measure 106 is a “backdoor ban on abortion” that blocks access to medical care for low-income women.
An Do, communications director for the anti-106 coalition No Cuts to Care, said the measure would essentially create two categories of access to “the full spectrum of reproductive care” based on a woman’s income level. She said that women who are on the Oregon Health Plan often have the biggest barriers to accessing health care, and the measure could put an abortion out of their reach.
“A right is not a right unless you can afford to access it,” she said.
Measure 106 would be a step in the opposite direction for Oregon, she said, which has a long history of protecting abortion access.
The state has no laws requiring waiting periods, ultrasounds, counseling, parental permission or other requirements often imposed by states, and does not ban late-term abortions provided after the fetus would be viable outside the womb. Last year, the legislature passed the Reproductive Health Equity Act, which requires all insurance plans in Oregon to fully cover the cost of abortions with no co-pay.
Do said restrictions on abortion access take away a woman’s right to choose when to start a family.
“Abortion is a really personal, serious medical decision that should be kept between a woman and her doctor,” Do said.
Previous ballot measures attempting to place limits on abortion have failed, but Do said the coalition of organizations against Measure 106 will not be complacent in fighting the proposed constitutional amendment all the way to Election Day.
Contact Jade McDowell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-564-4536.