News Abortion

Attempt to Strip Oregon’s Low-Income Women of Access to Medicaid Funding for Safe Abortion Care Fails

Robin Marty

An attempt to make Oregon ban allowing Medicaid to fund abortions has failed to gain traction.

There aren’t very many states left in the country that will allow Medicaid to cover abortions for poor women, but an attempt to strike Oregon from the list has failed.

Via The Oregonian:

[Ballot sponsor Jeff] Jimerson said in an email to supporters on Wednesday night:

We’ve tallied up signatures that have come in this week and it looks like we’re not going to make it this year. With just two days left to deliver signed petitions to the Secretary of State, we’ve got only about 70,000 signatures in hand — less than half of our 150,000 signature goal.

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According to the site, Jimerson received no support from Oregon Right to Life, the state’s largest anti-choice organization, who said that they were focusing on legislative issues instead. 

The admission is an interesting one, since it supports the argument that anti-choice ballot initiatives like state funding bans or the more popular “personhood” amendments are less about trying to pass the amendment, and more about encouraging the right type of voter to come out and vote on election day.  As Colorado showed in 2010, an unpopular anti-choice amendment can actually rally the other side to show up to defeat the measure, which allowed the state to avoid the Republican wave that swept so many other races that year.

News Economic Justice

$15 Minimum Wage in California, New York Could Benefit Nine Million Workers

Nicole Knight Shine

In recent polls, two-thirds of registered New York voters supported a $15 per hour minimum wage, with support strongest in New York City.

The Democratic governors of New York and California on Monday signed separate and unprecedented $15-per-hour minimum wage bills, which will gradually lift the wages of nearly nine million people who work in those states.

California’s base wage will rise to $15 by 2022 from the current rate of $10 per hour. New York’s wage hike is less sweeping, with New York City workers to get a $15 per hour minimum wage at the end of 2018, and Suffolk, Westchester, and Nassau counties reaching $15 by the end of 2022, as Syracuse.com reported.

The minimum wage in upstate New York would rise to $12.50 at the end 2020, with future hikes tied to economic conditions. The state’s minimum is now $9 an hour.

An estimated six-and-a-half million people who work in California and more than two million in New York state will see their wages rise under new laws.

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Both laws carve out exceptions to the wage hikes for small businesses, with California’s law allowing the scheduled hikes to be scaled back in the case of an economic downturn. New York’s law also includes a provision for 12 weeks of paid family leave.

California’s Democratic-led legislature and governor struck the wage deal last week after a statewide, union-led $15-minimum-wage ballot measure gathered enough signatures to go before voters in November. That initiative would have raised the statewide wage to $15 by 2021—a year earlier than under the new law.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed the landmark legislation in ceremonies Monday morning in New York City and Los Angeles, respectively.

“We want economic justice and we want it now,” Cuomo said as he signed the law, noting that a New York family can’t live on the state’s $9 an hour minimum wage.

Brown signed his state’s legislation, sounding a more cautious note, as the Sacramento Bee reported.

“Economically, minimum wages may not make sense,” Brown said, before adding that wage hikes encompass more than economics. “Morally and socially and politically, they (minimum wages) make every sense because it binds the community together and makes sure that parents can take care of their kids in a much more satisfactory way.”

Voters in both states favored the wage hikes. In recent polls, two-thirds of registered New York voters supported a $15 per hour minimum wage, with support strongest in New York City. In California, 68 percent of registered voters in a poll last year favored increasing the base wage $1 per hour every year for five years.

New documents leaked to the Center for Media and Democracy show that most business leaders support the minimum wage, despite rhetoric to the contrary by chambers of commerce, which typically fight against efforts to raise wages for people who work.

Demands for better pay made headlines last year when thousands of fast-food employees marched in 400 cities in support of pay hikes and unionization in the Fight for $15 campaign. Some states and cities have acted to raise local base wages above the federal minimum, which has been stuck at $7.25 per hour since 2009.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) last month signed legislation to raise the minimum wage to $14.75 in the Portland area, $13.50 in urban counties, and $12.50 in rural regions by 2022.

More than 200 bills in 2015 called for increases to state or federal minimum wage, according to data from the National Conference of State Legislatures.

News Law and Policy

Another Effort to Strip State-Assisted Abortion Funding Introduced in Oregon

Nicole Knight Shine

The proposed ballot measure would limit state money for the procedure to cases of rape, incest, or medical necessity, similar to the federal Hyde Amendment.

An anti-abortion petition in Oregon aims to strip the health-care procedure of state funding, with the potential to affect thousands of impoverished women each year.

The proposed ballot measure would limit state money for the procedure to cases of rape, incest, or medical necessity, similar to the federal Hyde Amendment.

The Oregon Health Authority covers abortion for women who typically make no more than $1,800 per month, a spokeswoman said. The Oregon Health Plan paid for 3,556 abortion procedures in 2013-2014, the most recent fiscal year for which data is available, at a total cost of nearly $1.8 million.

Jeff Jimerson, co-author of the petition and director of Oregon Life United, told Rewire he doesn’t want women to end their pregnancies on taxpayers’ dime.

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“We’re not against paying for things that are good for the community, but the destruction of human life is not something I want to pay for, and many thousands of Oregonians don’t want to pay for,” Jimerson said.

On Friday, Oregon Life United announced in a statement it delivered 1,459 signatures to the Oregon Secretary of State, an early-stage requirement in the ballot process. The petition needs 117,578 signatures to go before voters in 2016.

Amy Casso, program manager of the Western States Center and the BRAVE Coalition, said the proposed measure would limit reproductive health access among the state’s poorest.

“By denying coverage for abortion, we would be taking away a low-income individual’s ability to make important personal decisions based on what is best for their circumstances,” Casso said in a statement.

The number of abortions that the state has paid for is down from 2002, when 4,105 were covered.

Past attempts to get the measure on the the ballot fell short. Jimerson said they gathered about 98,000 signatures in 2014, and 72,000 in 2012.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, 32 states and the District of Columbia restrict state funding of abortion to cases of life endangerment, rape, and incest, although Oregon does not. The use of direct federal funds is illegal in all 50 states except in rare circumstances.

Reproductive health providers call the proposed initiative a “scam.”

“The ballot measure sponsors seek to push their narrow political agenda of ending access to abortion,” Mary Nolan, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon, said in a statement. “This measure would unfairly penalize low-income Oregonian women seeking abortion.”