Last month, Oregonians in every corner of the state — from Redmond to Pendleton to McMinnville to Roseburg — took part in a historic moment to march, rally, caravan and demonstrate support for abortion justice. We cannot be complacent and hope the courts will protect us while access to safe, legal abortion hangs on by a thread.
2021 has already been the worst on record for abortion restrictions –– which disproportionately harm rural people, people of color and people with low incomes. State legislatures have introduced nearly 600 restrictions this year alone, including 11 here in Oregon.
For the past two months, we’ve seen the catastrophic impact of a heinous Texas law that bans abortion at six weeks — before most people even know they’re pregnant — while empowering and incentivizing vigilante bounty hunters to surveil and harass people. Earlier this month, patients and providers finally had their day in court, and we are hopeful the Supreme Court will step in and block politicians from continuing to wreak havoc.
Then on Dec.1, the court will hear oral arguments in a pivotal case — a challenge to Mississippi’s cruel 15-week abortion ban — which could hollow out Roe v. Wade and upend 50 years of precedent. If states are allowed to ban all or some abortions, more than 36 million people who can get pregnant in 26 states may have to travel extraordinary distances to get to an abortion provider.
“Destination states” like Oregon, where abortion rights are safeguarded, would suddenly have the nearest clinics for thousands of patients. The Guttmacher Institute recently reported that if a 15-week ban went into effect, Oregon would see a 234% increase in women of reproductive age who may be forced to drive here for care, including up to 230,000 Idahoans and 670 Nevadans.
Another study shows that rural Oregonians in Baker and Malheur counties would see up to a 35% decrease in abortion access because of the longer travel distance to the nearest provider in Bend.
At this critical time, it’s shameful that the Deschutes County Commission voted to withhold abortion coverage for county employees, against the Employee Benefits Advisory Commitee’s recommendation. The county’s health plans are regulated by federal law, so they are not subject to state mandates for health care coverage. Cost is a huge barrier to accessing abortion, and these workers will now have subpar coverage that does not meet standards the state has set for the Oregon Health Plan and private commercial insurers.
Commissioners Tony DeBone and Patti Adair are out of touch with their own constituents: In 2018, Deschutes voters rejected Ballot Measure 106, sending a clear message that everyone should be able to decide whether and when to become a parent, regardless of how they’re insured. Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon thanks Commissioner Phil Chang for voting to follow state standards.
While Roe has been rendered effectively meaningless in Texas, we know that Roe has always been the floor and not the ceiling. In many places across the country, abortion is a right in name only.
That’s why no matter what happens in the courts or in other state legislatures, it’s essential that the Senate passes the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would establish a statutory right to provide and receive abortion care. Unfortunately, Congressman Cliff Bentz turned his back on the health and rights of his constituents by opposing the bill.
Access to abortion is supported by a majority of Oregonians, and given the ongoing threats, it’s unconscionable that Bentz, DeBone and Adair would put politics ahead of the needs of the people.
We need lawmakers at all levels of government to ensure all people can make their own health care decisions without political interference. We have no more time to waste.