By Dr. James W. Mahoney

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Ballot Measure 106 is a constitutional amendment that would forbid the use of public funds for abortion. This ban would include both Oregon Health Plan (Medicaid) recipients, and state employees who receive health insurance through their employer (the state). The anti-abortion folks try to sell this to voters with several arguments, none of which make any sort of sense, and which belie the true intent of 106.

The proponents bemoan the money spent over the years on abortions through OHP. Well, the cost of an abortion to the state is around $550. If we force these women to give birth, the cost is FAR more. A 2013 Medscape study found that Medicaid, nationally, paid an average of $9,131 for all the costs associated with a vaginal delivery, and $13,590 for a C-section (about 30 percent of births). And remember, these women are already low income, now even more likely to remain so. And with another mouth to feed, possibly also requiring public funds! So the financial argument for 106 fails miserably.

The proponents of 106 insist that it is wrong to have their tax dollars used for something which they find objectionable. However, abortion remains a safe and legal option for everyone, even low-income women. The mission and goals of the Oregon Health Plan are to provide access to health care for low-income individuals and families, NOT to decide for them what constitutes appropriate care. If the concept is that my tax dollars cannot not be spent on things I oppose, then the whole system breaks down. All taxpayers can find something that government spends their taxes on that they violently oppose (e.g., invasion of Iraq, tax breaks for corporations, poor land use planning). But it just doesn’t work that way. Taxes are the price we pay for civilized society, and sometimes you have to just hold your nose and go along.

The proponents frame a woman’s decision to have an abortion as a “choice.” That’s a clever appropriation of the word “choice,” but in fact, most women who “choose” abortion do so because they already have children to care for, cannot afford more, need to work, finish their education, etc. Ending an unintended and unwanted pregnancy is not a choice for them, but often a necessity.

The proponents, claiming to be acting for the benefit of women, trot out the usual unscientific drivel that abortion has long term ill effects on women. None of this has ever been shown to be true, but, especially in this political climate, “truth isn’t truth” and their end justifies their means.

Let’s be honest. These folks just don’t like abortion. Guess what? Nobody does! But history shows you don’t stop abortion by making it illegal. You just make it more dangerous. My opinion on this is informed by the summer of 1970 which I spent as a third year medical student at the Philadelphia General Hospital, on OB-GYN, helping care for a ward full of women, most of color and all low income, suffering from the effects of back alley abortions. Some of these women died. Such a scene is unthinkable today. But is it?

If we truly want to prevent abortions and save money, we should make contraception free and easily available to women and men, demand real sex education in our schools and help people not get pregnant unless they really want to have a child. That’s the “choice” we should be talking about.

But of course, the anti-abortion folks don’t want you to use birth control either. Passing 106 would be just the beginning of their assault on women’s rights. They will put lipstick on this camel, but the camel’s nose will still be under the tent. Vote NO on 106.

— Dr. James W. Mahoney lives in Bend.

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