Oregon has long been a pioneer for reproductive healthcare—in 2013, the Washington Post reported that ours was the only state without legal limits on abortion access. Our progressive status was further boosted last Tuesday, August 15, when Gov. Kate Brown signed into law the Reproductive Health Equity Act. First introduced to the House in March, the act was created in response to Republican congressional attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act that, if successful, would strip millions of Americans of their reproductive health care coverage.
“This 2017 Act being necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health and safety, an emergency is declared to exist,” reads the bill. The legislation systematically expands coverage for thousands of Oregonians, particularly historically marginalized groups such as immigrants, transgender folks, and low-income mothers. Specific provisions include the following:
- Abortion will remain fully legal in Oregon if Roe v. Wade is overturned on a federal level.
- Even if the Affordable Care Act is repealed, insurers are required to fully cover all forms of reproductive health care—including screenings, contraceptives, abortion, and voluntary sterilization for all genders—for all plans "issued, renewed, modified or extended on or after January 1, 2019."
- Transgender and nonbinary Oregonians cannot be denied reproductive health care coverage based on gender identity, sex, or sexual orientation.
- The law allocates funds to expand cost-free reproductive coverage to immigrants who are ineligible for Medicaid and other insurance options.
The Reproductive Health Equity Act was developed by the Pro-Choice Coalition of Oregon, a statewide coalition that includes the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon, NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon, Oregon Latino Health Coalition, and the Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon, among other organizations.
“We are so grateful for the bold leadership of Governor Brown and legislative champions who understand that Oregonians don’t want reproductive health care attacked,” said Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon’s Laurel Swerdlow in a statement. “Women, transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals, people of color, immigrants, and people of faith are not going to silently stand around while politicians in Washington D. C. try to take away our health care.”