SALEM — The Senate approved a $10 million reproductive health care bill on Wednesday, with the bulk of the time spent in the culture war surrounding abortion.
“We’re fighting and dying on our little progressive and conservative hills,” said Sen. Dennis Linthicum, R-Klamath Falls.
The bill would require insurance companies in Oregon to cover reproductive services, including abortions, at no cost. It was approved on a 17-13 party line vote, with Democrats voting yes and Republicans voting no. The bill now goes to Gov. Kate Brown, who is expected to sign it.
Oregon has been a pioneer in legal abortion, first permitting some procedures in 1969. Since the Roe v. Wade ruling by the Supreme Court in 1973, the state passed a series of laws making abortion easily accessible and inexpensive. It has also increasingly picked up the cost of abortions, especially for the poor.
The bill passed Wednesday allocates nearly $500,000 for reproductive health services for immigrants who cannot qualify for Medicaid. The services would include abortions.
Proponents of the bill said abortion safeguards were necessary because of the Trump administration’s hostility toward Planned Parenthood and other organizations that offer abortions among their services.
Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, D-Portland, said that the reality is that contraception isn’t always available and does not always work.
“Fifty percent of pregnancies were not planned,” said Steiner Hayward, who is a medical doctor.
Republicans tried unsuccessfully to have the bill sent back to committee to have the abortion sections removed.
Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, led the opposition. He pointed out administrative problems with the bill and criticized an exemption to the abortion requirement given only to Providence Health & Services, the Catholic nonprofit based in Renton, Washington.
But Knopp also made what Republicans have called a moral challenge to abortion.
“We pursue a culture of death in this country,” Knopp said “It’s pervasive. It’s everywhere. It’s in our movies. Our TV shows. Our video games. Our magazines. It’s down the street.”
Choking slightly with emotion, his voice quavering, Knopp finished.
“The souls of 50 million babies in our country cry out for justice, and I know God hears them,” Knopp said.
“The question, colleagues, is will we hear their cries for justice?”
Linthicum said it was a discredit to the people of the state that Oregon had become a haven for illegal immigrants and abortions paid for by taxpayers.
“We should not be showering politically well-connected abortion clinics with political gift cards,” Linthicum said.
While Republicans took the majority of the time speaking on the floor, the bill passed by a four-vote margin.
— Reporter: 541-525-5280, email@example.com
A previous version of this story contained an incorrectly attributed quote. The error has been corrected.