Update: On Tuesday, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed into law one of the most progressive reproductive health bills in the United States. The new law aims to expand insurance coverage on abortion procedures and other reproductive health services to residents of Oregon regardless of their income, gender identity, or even citizenship status.
The law would also protect abortion rights in the event that Roe v. Wade is overturned and allocates public funds for low-income Oregonians who need postpartum care.
This story was originally published on July 6, 2017.
The Oregon legislature passed a measure on Wednesday night that could be an incredible victory for reproductive rights in the state. Among many new protections, the Reproductive Health Equity Act of 2017 requires insurers to offer coverage for reproductive health services at no cost, protect abortion rights even if Roe v. Wade is overturned, and allocate public funds for postpartum care for low-income Oregonians.
The measure, also known as House Bill 3391, now awaits Gov. Kate Brown's signature. Brown is a Democrat with a track record for supporting reproductive rights, so it's likely she'll sign the bill. Oregon's abortion laws are among the most liberal in the country, but this bill would guarantee even greater access to reproductive health services.
If the measure becomes law, insurers in the state will be required to provide coverage for abortions and an array of reproductive health services at no cost to every patient — no matter their income, citizenship status, or gender identity. (Some of these services include birth control, vasectomies, prenatal and postpartum care, and screenings for sexually transmitted infections and cancer.) Insurance companies that have religious-based objections to cover abortions or birth control can be exempted, as dictated by federal law.
The bill also allocates public funds for family planning services, protecting them from Republican efforts at the executive and legislative level to defund entities that provide abortion services. In late May, President Trump introduced a budget proposal that would withhold federal funds from these organizations, specifically Planned Parenthood. Meanwhile, both the Senate and House healthcare bills also propose defunding Planned Parenthood.
Reproductive rights advocates were thrilled that the Oregon Senate approved the measure.
"As states across the country are stripping women of reproductive health services and coverage, Oregon is leading the way in not only protecting the right to legal abortion but in expanding coverage to ensure that no one is denied access to vital reproductive health services, from contraception to postpartum care," said Grayson Dempsey, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon, in a statement provided to Refinery29.
Oregon is doing something right: It's 2017, and we should be making it easier for women to access reproductive health services, not harder. The fact that this bill offers an additional layer of protection for the vulnerable, such as low-income women and undocumented immigrants, is just the cherry on top.
As anti-choice politicians keep ramping up their attacks against reproductive rights, it's refreshing to see lawmakers take the necessary steps to ensure that women will still have control over decisions related to their health — as it should be.