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Oregon Takes A Monumental Step To Protect Abortion Rights, Because It's Health Care

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The state of Oregon has long been sensitive to women's reproductive rights. It remains the only state that doesn't enforce any regulations on abortion access, and lawmakers in that state are aiming to keep up that reputation regardless of what the future might bring. Some lawmakers in Oregon have moved to protect abortion rights in seriously significant ways, and it's an important move that other states should follow (though that seems unlikely) because abortion is health care.

As Senate Republicans continue to move forward with a new plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the Obama-era health care legislation, Oregon Rep. Julie Fahey hopes to take steps to protect abortion rights in her state. With that in mind, Fahey sponsored a bill that would offer free abortions and postnatal care to all women in the state even if insurance providers are no longer required to cover these services. The coverage would also extend to an estimated 22,000 undocumented immigrants. Fahey explained to The Hill that this bill is following the lead of several other states who have taken precautionary measures if the ACA is repealed.

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. 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 Better Care Resolution Act, Senate Republicans proposed ACA replacement bill, essential health benefits could very well be in jeopardy if passed. The BCRA, if passed, would offer states the opportunity to waive essential health benefits rights.

Fahey's bill in Oregon aims to protect women in the state from losing their rights to essential health benefits. In an email to Romper, Lead Legislative Assistant for Rep. Fahey, Jake Foster, describes the bill:

Of the total estimated $10.2 million cost of the bill, approximately $500,000 is estimated (by the Oregon Health Authority) to be used to cover abortion, specifically. The majority of the money will be used to pay for the other preventative services described in the bill, including postpartum care.

If the bill is passed, Oregon would follow in the footsteps of California, Maryland, Connecticut, and Washington state (The Hill reported that Delaware is in the midst of implementing similar protections). Each of those four states have instituted legal protections at the state level to protect abortion access if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.

Since Roe v. Wade afforded women access to abortion, statistics have shown a marked increase in their earning potential. Between 1970 and 1990, there were 30 percent more women searching out skilled careers than before. According to a study performed by the Guttmacher Institute:

Delaying a birth can also reduce the gap in pay that typically exists between working mothers and their childless peers and can reduce women’s chances of needing public assistance.

And the reality is that denying women access to abortion services ends up ultimately costing the government a lot more; take Texas, for example. In 2011, Texas lawmakers were looking to cut family planning funding by $73 million. When they realized this would potentially mean paying for 24,000 extra births to the tune of $273 million (based on medical expenses through Medicaid), they began to have second thoughts.

In other words, that proposed $10 million expenditure could end up saving the taxpayers of Oregon in the long run, according to Think Progress.

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Oregon Gov. Kate Brown is expected to see this new bill over the next few days, but could face a considerable amount of resistance from state Republicans, despite the fact that Democrats control the state legislature. One Republican, Oregon Senate Republican Conference spokesperson Jonathan Lockwood noted, according to Mediate:

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. This bill is nothing more than a political gift card to Planned Parenthood, and we’ve seen Planned Parenthood engaged in political actions.

The only problem with Lockwood's arguments is that none of them are true. 99 percent of abortions occur before 21 weeks of pregnancy, and sex-selective abortions just do not happen (and laws that seek to ban sex-selective abortion under the guise of protecting female fetuses are often steeped in racist stereotypes about Asian women).

One thing we know for certain; the lawmakers of Oregon are persisting and resisting. And it's a good day for reproductive rights in the state, regardless of whatever rhetoric might come from detractors.

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Fahey's bill would use all of its $10 million cost to cover abortion services. But, according to the Oregon Health Authority, about $500,000 will go toward covering abortions, while the remainder of the funds will primarily go toward postpartum care and preventive services. Romper regrets the error.