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7/6/2017 12:50:00 PM
Abortion spending and coverage increased
Providence pressure increased strength of religious exemption, but GOP lawmakers say it does not go far enough


A bill that increases state spending on abortion by $10.2 million is headed to the desk of Gov. Kate Brown.

On an emotional 17-13 vote, the Oregon Senate on July 5 passed the Reproductive Health Equity Act, which requires health plans to provide free coverage of exams, drugs, devices and procedures, including abortion.

After the vote, Senate Republicans issued a statement saying the bill is "nothing more than a political statement and a political gift card to Planned Parenthood that brought unnecessary drama and divisiveness to the end of the legislative session."

The bill includes a religious exemption, but it orders the Oregon Health Authority to provide coverage where religious organizations will not.

The House majority leader, Rep. Jennifer Williamson, a Portland Democrat, was a chief supporter of the proposed law, saying high medical bills can prompt bankruptcy or homelessness. The House passed the bill July 1 with 33 votes for and 23 against.

Pro-life lawmakers approved of most of the bill, but vigorously questioned why abortion had to be included, causing a moral crisis. They attempted to have abortion provisions removed, but that motion failed.

Rep. Werner Reschke, R-Klamath Falls accused supporters of the bill of promoting abortion coverage as if being pregnant were a disease.

The bill also allocates almost $500,000 in the 2017-19 budget for abortions and other procedures to immigrants. Oregon’s Medicaid program already spends nearly $2 million a year to pay for about 3,500 abortions.

Oregon already accommodates and provides for abortion more than most states. There are no waiting periods, education requirements or spending limits on taxpayer funds.

Democrats drafted the bill in response to possible changes in federal health care policy.

Earlier, Providence Health System had threatened to exit the state’s insurance market, saying the religious exemptions did not go far enough. Though the bill’s handlers did increase exemptions, GOP lawmakers say the provisions still fall short.

Bill Diss, leader of Precious Children of Portland, called the proposed law “fundamentally an abortion bill that will boost the coffers of abortion providers like Planned Parenthood.” Diss says other portions of the bill could be accomplished “without further funding and promoting the killing of unborn children.”



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