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Oregon Democrats Kill Reproductive Health Bill Because It Included Abortion Provision

Nina Liss-Schultz

The proposal would have required all health insurance plans to cover a wide range of reproductive health services, including contraception, abortion, prenatal care, childbirth, and postpartum care, at low costs.

An Oregon bill that would have codified the right to affordable, full-spectrum reproductive health care was killed by the state’s Democratic leadership last week because of a provision that would have increased access to abortion.

Backed by a coalition of progressive lawmakers and activists, SB 894, the Comprehensive Women’s Health Bill, appeared strong coming out of the gate in the Democratic-led legislature.

“I’m proud to be working with such a wide range of legislators and advocates on this issue,” state Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward (D-Beaverton), one of the bill’s chief sponsors, told Rewire when the bill was introduced in February. “We’ve got Republicans and Democrats, men and women, and advocates from across the spectrum who care deeply about this bill.”

The proposal would have required all health insurance plans to cover a wide range of reproductive health services, including contraception, abortion, prenatal care, childbirth, and postpartum care, at low costs. It would also have allowed pharmacies to dispense a 12-month supply of birth control at one time, and reduced cost sharing and deductibles for abortion care.

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But the language on abortion proved a sticking point even for the Oregon legislature, which has a Democratic super-majority and a track record of supporting abortions rights. Senators in the health committee failed to even give the bill a hearing date, killing it by default.

Health committee chair Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson (D-Gresham), who was also a sponsor of the bill, “did not schedule it because she didn’t think she could get the votes from her caucus, and it was absolutely because of the inclusion of abortion in the bill,” Aimee Santos-Lyons, director of programs for Western States Center, told Rewire. The Western States Center backed the bill. “Senators didn’t want to be asked to vote on abortion and have that on their record. They find it a difficult issue to go public on.”

Monnes Anderson told local media outlet the Lund Report as much:

Monnes Anderson said some members objected that the language about abortion be included alongside protections for contraception, pregnancy and post-partum care. Both Monnes Anderson and Steiner Hayward declined to say who opposed this part of the bill.

Monnes Anderson said the abortion language was so toxic that ‘leadership’–her caucus leaders–Courtney and Rosenbaum, would not even allow her to have a public hearing on SB 894, let alone move it to the Senate floor. She said House Democratic leaders were also involved in the discussion over whether the bill could see the light of day…

Steiner Hayward, who also serves on the health committee, refuted these claims, telling the Lund Report that all Democrats in the caucus support abortion rights.

Lawmakers suggested the bill would go forward if the abortion language were removed, said Santos-Lyons, but backers refused.

“Our coalition stood firm with our values and refused to continue the stigma of abortion,” Santos-Lyons told Rewire. “Had we accepted that compromise we would have thrown under the bus the many courageous women who shared their abortion stories in support of the bill.”

Though the Comprehensive Women’s Health Bill has died, lawmakers are continuing to look for a way to increase contraceptive access. HB 3343, which is in the House Committee on Health Care, would require insurers to give women up to a year’s worth of birth control at a time.

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