The Deschutes County Commission decided against changing the county’s health plan to fully cover abortion services.
In a 2-1 vote, the commission decided to keep a policy that only covers the costs of an abortion if the pregnancy threatens the life of the mother, or if it was the result of rape or incest.
Commission Chair Tony DeBone, who called the issue “very divisive,” joined Commissioner Patti Adair to vote in favor of keeping the policy. Commissioner Phil Chang was the one vote against.
In making its decision, the commission shot down a recommendation from the Employee Benefits Advisory Committee, which recommended the county align with state law to cover abortion without limitations.
The committee’s job is to review and evaluate employee benefits and is made up of department heads and labor union representatives, said Kathleen Hinman, the director of human resources.
As a result of the state’s Reproductive Health Equity Act, in general, private health-insurance plans in Oregon must include abortion coverage without limitations.
But Deschutes County’s plan qualifies for an exemption to the act, because the plan excluded abortion services prior to the act passing, according to county documents.
Hinman said a majority of the committee recommended changing the policy after comparing the county’s plan to others across the state. For example, the cities of La Pine and Bend fully cover abortion for their employees.
Giving women more choice was also a motivating factor.
“There was also some interest in providing the decision to be the woman’s in terms of making those medical decisions for themselves,” Hinman said after the meeting Monday.
Chang said he would have preferred the commission go with the committee’s recommendation, and pointed out that keeping the limitations in the policy doesn’t do anything to outlaw or prohibit abortion.
“What this decision says is that in the very rare situation where an employee decides they need an abortion for medical or other reasons, we as their health insurance provider will not support their choice,” Chang said.