Health Care

Where Do Reproductive Rights Stand in Oregon—and How Can We Move the Dial for Others?

In the wake of the news from Texas, we talked to Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon Executive Director An Do to find out whether Oregonians should be concerned, and what they can do to help.

By Fiona McCann September 3, 2021

News of a ban on abortions later than six weeks in Texas—unchallenged by the Supreme Court—has alarmed many across the US, including reproductive rights advocates in Oregon. Does this mean the end of Roe versus Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling on the right to choose an abortion? What does it mean for abortion access in our state? And what can we do to support reproductive rights across the country in the wake of this ruling?

We talked to An Do, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon, to find out what this shift means for Oregonians, and how those concerned can help.

First off, how likely is it that something like what just happened in Texas could happen here?

We have worked really hard to ensure that we've been electing sexual reproductive health care champions for decades now. It was not that long ago that our state legislature did not have a majority of pro-sexual reproductive health care champions, and routinely, anti-abortion bills were being brought to the floor to be debated and voted upon. So where we are at now is not by chance: it has been through a lot of hard work and grit and planning.

Where are we at?

In 2017, we passed the Reproductive Health Equity Act, and part of the bill was to ensure that state-regulated insurance plans would cover sexual reproductive health care—the whole spectrum including abortion care—with no out-of-pocket costs to patients. And it also expanded coverage to Oregonians who get pregnant, who would otherwise qualify for Medicaid, if not for their immigration status. So it's a really pretty remarkable thing that also included some non-discrimination pieces to help try to protect trans and nonbinary folks. 

But one of the big pieces that it did is that it codified Roe into our statute, which means that regardless of what happens with the Supreme Court in deciding the Mississippi 15-week abortion ban—we're anticipating that they'll be issuing a ruling on that next year—the right to an abortion in Oregon will remain.            

Then we’re good?

The legality piece is the baseline. Roe versus Wade is the floor, not the ceiling. Legality is not the ultimate goal. When it comes to something like health care, when it comes to something like abortion care, when it comes to something like the ability to make choices and control your reproductive destiny, that's intimately tied with your ability to care for your family, to access opportunity, to plan for your future.

So it is really at the core of so many economic justice issues, racial justice issues—reproductive justice is not just about rights, it's about a nexus of intersecting identities and issues impacting people. And so in Oregon we still have a long way to go when it comes to access, when it comes to being able to make sure that regardless of what insurance coverage you have, you are able to afford health care. . . .

In our state, we have many people who are not able to access abortion care because of limitations to their insurance coverage, not just with the federal Hyde Amendment, but with other insurances as well that aren't regulated by the state, per se. And you know, we have a lot of access issues when it comes to geography as well—Eastern Oregon, the coast, there are a lot fewer options there. And so when we're thinking about where Oregon is, we have a lot of room to grow. We have a lot of space to advance.

So what do we do?

I think the biggest thing for Oregonians and for anyone else currently in a state where, you know, access hasn't been rescinded in a dramatic way or is not queued up to be pulled back to the Supreme Court rule in a way that guts Roe vs Wade, is that we can't sleep on it. We can't sleep on this in Oregon, we can't take it for granted. If anything, the last four or five years have shown us that the tides turn quick. And if we're not vigilant, if we're not working to move the needle forward and we're not working to empower all communities, particularly Black, indigenous and brown communities that have been historically and systematically shut out of the system, if  we're not centering those individuals in those communities and our work, Texas is that cautionary tale.

Is there any way to help those in other states—like Texas—access the health care they need?

The first thing that folks should be doing is donating to abortion access funds. So one of the biggest barriers, as we've been talking about, is being able to afford the procedure, but it's not just being able to afford for procedure, it's pregnant people being able to travel, pay time off, get a hotel room, get childcare....

So when we talk about how the average American family can't sustain an unexpected unexpected expense of more than $400, in many places, needing to access abortion becomes a catastrophic health expenditure which basically means that it's going to eat up a huge percentage of their monthly budget, that they're making choices between getting food on the table, making rent, and being able to access healthcare. So one of the biggest things that we're doing is directing money directly to abortion funds. 

What about in the political sphere? 

There is legislation currently with Congress that is looking to codify the rights to an abortion for everyone. We relied on Roe for a long time to provide a protection that we really should have been codifying in federal law. So we can be putting pressure on Congress, we should be talking to our representatives and our senators, and our congressmen to ask them to prioritize that. 

We're fortunate our congressional delegation have been on board for the Women's Health Protection Act, which is to protect the right to access abortion and creates safeguard against bans and medically unnecessary restrictions, and that is something that we should be really rallying around. (I do want to emphasize that this is not just a woman's issue, there are trans and nonbinary folks who often who get pregnant, who also require abortion care.) 

Where should people donate if they want to help?

Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon have put together a series of related slides on their Instagram account, the last of which details accounts to follow and take action on this issue. Another options include this ActBlue page where folks can donate and it will be split up amongst the abortion funds in Texas. Finally, we also pulled together this Google doc with a bunch of different funds, including NWAAF, which helps pregnant people in the Pacific Northwest, Idaho, and Alaska get funds as well.

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