State Watch

Oregon measure would require abortion coverage

A new measure making its way through Oregon’s state legislature would require insurance companies to cover abortion services and post-natal care for women at no cost, a rare bright spot for abortion rights advocates at a time when opponents have advanced restrictions in other states.

The bill, which is likely to head to Gov. Kate Brown’s (D) desk in coming days, would appropriate $10 million to cover costs of those procedures. It guarantees Oregonians access to essential health benefits provided under the Affordable Care Act, even if Republicans in Washington succeed in repealing and replacing former President Barack Obama’s signature domestic legislative achievement.

“If the ACA goes away, people in Oregon will still be able to access those essential health benefits,” said state Rep. Julie Fahey (D), the measure’s prime sponsor.

{mosads}Fahey’s bill would also cover abortion services for undocumented immigrants who are not eligible for coverage under the state’s healthcare plan. An estimated 22,000 undocumented immigrants would be covered by that provision.

Insurers would be barred from transferring those costs to those who are covered, either through deductibles or co-pays.

Insurers who have a religious objection to covering abortions will be excluded, but the bill requires the state health department to cover those with policies through insurance companies that qualify for that exemption.

Fahey said her goal was to follow the lead of other states like California, Connecticut, Washington and Maryland, where state law guarantees a right to an abortion even if the Supreme Court overturns its landmark Roe v. Wade decision. Delaware legislators passed a similar measure earlier this year.

“The impetus of the bill was not what’s happening at the Supreme Court, but we felt like it was important to follow the lead of those other states,” Fahey said. “This bill has been several years in the making, so it was not directly a response to what’s been happening at the federal level.”

The state House passed the measure over the weekend on a party-line vote. The state Senate, rushing through a raft of measures before adjourning for the year next week, is likely to take up the bill Monday or Tuesday.

State Senate Republicans are likely to highlight the costs associated with the bill, which they say will put Oregon taxpayers on the hook for funding late-term abortions.

“I don’t believe that most Oregonians are okay with the fact that they will be forced to pay for late-term, sex-selective abortions,” said Jonathan Lockwood, a spokesman for the Oregon Senate Republican Conference. “This bill is nothing more than a political gift card to Planned Parenthood, and we’ve seen Planned Parenthood engaged in political actions.”

Democrats control both chambers of the state legislature.

Oregon has the most liberal abortion laws in the country; it is the only state without any restrictions on access to abortion services. The state legislature has avoided taking up abortion issues in recent years, part of a detente between Democrats and Republicans over issues that are likely to ratchet up partisan rhetoric.

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