The Secretary of State signed off on the measure (pdf) last Thursday, so now supporters have until July to collect the 116, 284 signatures needed to get the measure on the ballot. If passed, the constitutional amendment would effectively ban state health insurance from covering abortions, meaning women covered by the Oregon Health Plan would have to pay for abortions out of pocket. One of the chief petitioners of the measure is Marilyn Shannon, who at a John McCain fundraiser in 1993, praised the woman who shot an abortion clinic doctor.
Incidents of domestic terrorism aside, Oregon has a solid pro-choice history: Since the legislature rejected a number of new anti-abortion laws last year, we're one of only 14 states where access to abortion isn't limited by any laws like that Puritanical parental-consent business, waiting periods, or requirements that women considering abortion stare at ultrasounds of their embryos.
But abortion in Oregon is still limited by one major factor: class. An abortion costs at least $450—it can be a major expense for women without health insurance. Jennifer Webster, a Eugene resident who started a local abortion-help hotline said it best when I interviewed her in 2010: "To me, it's a justice issue. Women should be able to get abortions if they need them, whether or not they can pay for them and no matter where they live. All that restrictions do is hurt the most vulnerable women in our community. A woman who really, really needs an abortion is going to get one."
I'd expect voters are more likely to approve this funding measure than the other anti-abortion measure aiming for Oregon's ballot, a personhood measure like the one that Mississippi recently rejected. But while it's not setting down any laws banning abortions, it's important to remember that cutting coverage of abortion effectively cuts off class of women from being able to make their own reproductive choices.
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