On August 15, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed a bill to provide free abortions for all, including illegal immigrants, by requiring insurance companies to cover the procedures while forcing taxpayers to foot the bill.
House Bill 3391, which was approved by the State Legislature July 5 with zero Republican votes, earned heavy criticism from Conservatives and pro-life groups. The $10.2 million Reproductive Health Equity Act includes $500,000 for abortions for the estimated 22, 873 women who would be eligible for the Oregon Health Plan, the state’s Medicaid program, “except for their immigration status”.
Under the new law, Oregon insurers must provide 100% coverage for abortions without copays or deductibles.
Critics of the bill warned that it would imperil the state’s federal funding because it violates the Weldon Amendment, the 2005 congressional provision that prohibits Health and Human Services funds for states that discriminate against healthcare providers that refuse to cover abortion.
Pro-life Republicans tried to block the bill but did not have enough votes to succeed. “We don’t need to do this”, Representative Mike Nearman said before the House vote, “This is Oregon. There are no legal restrictions on anyone’s right to get an abortion.” Representative Bill Post, a Republican, also weighed in on the bill with a Facebook post, saying “The saddest day of my life was when I had to vote on this bill, though of course I voted NO, there was no reason to actually run this bill at all. Oregon should be ashamed and embarrassed.”
According to pro-life organization Oregon Right to Life, many insurance plans in the state already cover abortions, and there is no guarantee that there will be insurance options in the future that do not cover abortions. Gayle Atteberry, executive director of Oregon Right to Life, predicted that the state’s abortion rate would climb as a result of the law.
“By making abortion free, this percentage will inevitably increase”, Atteberry explained, “We also expect more late-term abortions, which are currently very expensive as well as risky to perform. All completely covered by either insurance companies or the Oregon taxpayers”.
While the bill does contain some exemptions for churches and religious nonprofits as required by federal law, and insurance companies with religious objections can apply for a federal waiver, the category of people who oppose abortion for religious reasons ultimately extends far beyond religious institutions and insurance company executives. What about all of the regular American citizens who feel their conscience rights are under threat? For plenty of Americans, this law violates moral values and abridges the constitutional right to freedom of religion.
Oregon Right to Life is currently assessing all options for stopping the effects of this legislation, including possible legal action.