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.”

News Sexual Health

State with Nation’s Highest Chlamydia Rate Enacts New Restrictions on Sex Ed

Nicole Knight Shine

By requiring sexual education instructors to be certified teachers, the Alaska legislature is targeting Planned Parenthood, which is the largest nonprofit provider of such educational services in the state.

Alaska is imposing a new hurdle on comprehensive sexual health education with a law restricting schools to only hiring certificated school teachers to teach or supervise sex ed classes.

The broad and controversial education bill, HB 156, became law Thursday night without the signature of Gov. Bill Walker, a former Republican who switched his party affiliation to Independent in 2014. HB 156 requires school boards to vet and approve sex ed materials and instructors, making sex ed the “most scrutinized subject in the state,” according to reproductive health advocates.

Republicans hold large majorities in both chambers of Alaska’s legislature.

Championing the restrictions was state Sen. Mike Dunleavy (R-Wasilla), who called sexuality a “new concept” during a Senate Education Committee meeting in April. Dunleavy added the restrictions to HB 156 after the failure of an earlier measure that barred abortion providers—meaning Planned Parenthood—from teaching sex ed.

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Dunleavy has long targeted Planned Parenthood, the state’s largest nonprofit provider of sexual health education, calling its instruction “indoctrination.”

Meanwhile, advocates argue that evidence-based health education is sorely needed in a state that reported 787.5 cases of chlamydia per 100,000 people in 2014—the nation’s highest rate, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Surveillance Survey for that year.

Alaska’s teen pregnancy rate is higher than the national average.

The governor in a statement described his decision as a “very close call.”

“Given that this bill will have a broad and wide-ranging effect on education statewide, I have decided to allow HB 156 to become law without my signature,” Walker said.

Teachers, parents, and advocates had urged Walker to veto HB 156. Alaska’s 2016 Teacher of the Year, Amy Jo Meiners, took to Twitter following Walker’s announcement, writing, as reported by Juneau Empire, “This will cause such a burden on teachers [and] our partners in health education, including parents [and] health [professionals].”

An Anchorage parent and grandparent described her opposition to the bill in an op-ed, writing, “There is no doubt that HB 156 is designed to make it harder to access real sexual health education …. Although our state faces its largest budget crisis in history, certain members of the Legislature spent a lot of time worrying that teenagers are receiving information about their own bodies.”

Jessica Cler, Alaska public affairs manager with Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii, called Walker’s decision a “crushing blow for comprehensive and medically accurate sexual health education” in a statement.

She added that Walker’s “lack of action today has put the education of thousands of teens in Alaska at risk. This is designed to do one thing: Block students from accessing the sex education they need on safe sex and healthy relationships.”

The law follows the 2016 Legislative Round-up released this week by advocacy group Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. The report found that 63 percent of bills this year sought to improve sex ed, but more than a quarter undermined student rights or the quality of instruction by various means, including “promoting misinformation and an anti-abortion agenda.”

News Politics

Tim Kaine Clarifies Position on Federal Funding for Abortion, Is ‘for the Hyde Amendment’

Ally Boguhn

The Democratic Party voiced its support for rolling back the restriction on federal funding for abortion care in its platform, which was voted through this week.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), Hillary Clinton’s running mate, clarified during an interview with CNN on Friday that he still supports the Hyde Amendment’s ban on federal funding for abortion care.

During Kaine’s appearance on New Day, host Alisyn Camerota asked the Democrat’s vice presidential nominee whether he was “for or against” the ban on funding for abortion. Kaine replied that he had “been for the Hyde Amendment,” adding “I haven’t changed my position on that.”

Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager, told CNN on Sunday that Kaine had “said that he will stand with Secretary Clinton to defend a woman’s right to choose, to repeal the Hyde amendment.” Another Clinton spokesperson later clarified to the network that Kaine’s commitment had been “made privately.”

The Democratic Party voiced its support for rolling back the restriction on federal funding for abortion care in its platform, which was voted through this week.

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“We will continue to oppose—and seek to overturn—federal and state laws and policies that impede a woman’s access to abortion, including by repealing the Hyde Amendment,” reads the platform.

Kaine this month told the Weekly Standard that he was not aware that the party had put language outlining support for repealing Hyde into the platform, noting that he had “traditionally been a supporter of the Hyde amendment.”

Clinton has repeatedly said that she supports Hyde’s repeal, calling the abortion care restriction “hard to justify.”

Abortion rights advocates say that Hyde presents a major obstacle to abortion access in the United States.

“The Hyde amendment is a violent piece of legislation that keeps anyone on Medicaid from accessing healthcare and denies them full control over their lives,” Yamani Hernandez, executive director of the National Network of Abortion Funds, said in a statement. “Whether or not folks believe in the broken U.S. political system, we are all impacted by the policies that it produces. … Abortion access issues go well beyond insurance and the ability to pay, but removing the Hyde Amendment will take us light years closer to where we need to be.”