Oregon “Equal Rights Amendment” WAS about paying for abortions

Sen Doug Whitsett

by Sen. Doug Whitsett

The Oregon “Equal Rights Amendment” passed last November is being used with new bill SB 894 to mandate that health plans must pay for abortions. The abortions will be essentially free (no copay or deductible), at ANY stage of pregnancy and upon demand.

The Oregon Equal Rights Amendment was adopted last November when the people of Oregon passed ballot Measure 89 by a nearly a two-to-one margin.

The measure created and added Article 1, Section 46 to the Oregon Constitution. That section states that “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the state of Oregon or by any political subdivision of the state on account of sex.” The Measure further authorized the state Legislature to enforce that provision through appropriate legislation.

During the campaign, I warned that the adoption of this amendment, as written, could likely require the state to mandate that government-funded health plans must pay for abortions. I based my conclusion on the 1998 New Mexico Supreme Court decision that nearly identical language in that state’s Equal Rights Amendment required the state to essentially pay for abortion on demand.

The Court reasoned that only women can become pregnant and that the Amendment made women a class of citizens. Therefore, any restriction on the termination of a pregnancy would affect only that protected class of citizens and would be unconstitutional under the Equal Rights Amendment.

Last week, Sen. Elizabeth Steiner-Hayward (D-Beaverton), an Oregon family physician, and 28 other Democrat legislators co-sponsored Senate Bill 894. Section 1, subsection (15) of that bill finds that “restrictions on abortion coverage interfere with a woman’s personal decision-making, her health and well-being and her constitutionally protected right to safe and legal medical procedures.”

My understanding of SB 894 is that it requires all private and public health insurance providers to offer essentially free abortions, at any stage of gestation, upon demand. This was confirmed to me by an attorney from Legislative Counsel. 

Section 3 (1) of the bill defines “health benefit plan” to have the meaning provided in ORS 743.730. That statute includes any person who provides health benefit plans in this state including (a) a licensed insurance company; (b) a health care service contractor; (c) a health insurance maintenance organization; (d) an association or group of employers that provides benefits; or (e) any other person or corporation responsible for the payment of benefits or provision of services.

Section 5 (2) further requires that a health benefit plan must provide payment or reimbursement expenses associated with preconception care, contraceptives, pregnancy care, childbirth, postpartum care, breast feeding support and supplies and abortion.

Bill states no copay or deductible for abortions

The bill continues at Section 3 (2) to state that the coverage under a health benefit plan for services or drugs to terminate a pregnancy may not (a) impose a copayment or coinsurance amount that exceeds 10 percent of the cost of the service or drug; or (b) be subject to a deductible.

Section 7 further requires the care and services prescribed by the Oregon Health Authority must include preconception care, contraceptives, pregnancy care, postpartum care and supplies and breastfeeding support, and abortion.

Section 9 of the bill declares an emergency to exist, causing the Act to take effect on its passage. Of course, this provision is meant to prevent the people of Oregon from referring the Act to the people to decide.

SB 894 is being called the Comprehensive Women’s Health Bill. Supporters claim that it provides clarity that the federal Affordable Care Act mandates that insurance carriers must cover the full range of reproductive health services. Further, they claim that SB 894 fills in the gaps in existing Oregon law to insure that women have access to all reproductive health services.

To clarify, the “gap” that this bill serves to “fill in” is abortion upon demand at any stage of gestation.

One would be very hard-pressed to recall any of these matters having been brought up during the campaign to pass Measure 89. Discussion of the potential unintended consequences of the Equal Rights Amendment would have complicated efforts by supporters and proponents of the measure to convince voters that it was a benign measure meant only to ensure gender equality.

Over 40 years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of Roe vs. Wade, abortion remains an extremely divisive political issue. The decades since its mandate have done little to change the very strongly felt opinions among millions of Americans that abortion is fundamentally and morally wrong. Many feel that it is not right to force them, through their tax dollars, to pay for procedures that they object to so strongly. Moreover, they feel equally strongly that they should not be required to pay higher private insurance premiums in order to help pay for abortions by others.

The passage of Measure 89 and the introduction of SB 894 will do little to settle the longstanding debates regarding abortion. They may, in fact, cause further dissention and angst among Oregonians on both sides of the debate.

Senator Doug Whitsett is the Republican state senator representing Senate District 28 – Klamath Falls

  • Eric Blair

    Can you imagine — covering a legal medical procedure? The horror.

    • MrBill

      When the legal medical procedure allows a child to be aborted at any point in a pregnancy up to the time of delivery, it is horrific. Regardless of whatever point in a pregnancy you define as the beginning of life, this bill ignores that point and crosses the line between birth control and infanticide.

      Just because it’s legal doesn’t make it right.

      • Eric Blair

        Just because it’s legal doesn’t make it right.

        This is true.. and just because you don’t believe it’s right, doesn’t make it wrong. As long as it is a legal procedure, I think it should be covered under health insurance plans. At this point it is a public policy health care issue and legal.

        Instead of fighting a rear-guard action, change the law instead. I know that’s more difficult because you’ll have to do it at the Supreme Court level, but that’s where it is at.

        • redbean

          Changing the law has been tried for over 40 years – unsuccessful even with so-called prolife prez and Congress. The 1% prefer it to continue. The only hope is to change people’s hearts. What if they opened an abortuary and nobody came?

        • MrBill

          It would be nice to win in one fell swoop at the SCOTUS level, but I prefer not to limit my focus to that. As Churchill once said, “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

          This should be opposed at all levels.

          • Eric Blair

            I can understand that… to a degree. And you’ll understand if I continue to insist that legal medical procedures be included in health care insurance.

            @redbean. I don’t think you truly have the majority of the country behind you on this issue. It’s not the 1% in this instance (and I doubt you have the statistic to back you up that the 1% is any less representative of the nation as a whole?). In this case it is the 50%+ of the population.

          • redbean

            By “1%” I was using shorthand to refer to the elites who’ve targeted poor and minority communities for population control programs for over 100 years. This group does indeed comprise (statistically) more than the wealthiest 1%.

            In general, though, foundation grants from the affluent have long been a rich funding source for these activities, rooted in racism and the eugenics movement. Roe vs. Wade was also a top-down approach to forcing legalization of abortion without relying on a vote of the people, who would’ve rejected it at the time.

            Polls on abortion vary, depending on the wording of the question. Most people do not support abortion at all stages. This legislation not only allows late-term abortion but requires that all of us pay for it.

            The younger generation is more pro-life than the boomers. Since the MSM ignores the annual March for Life in Washington DC, as well as the West Coast Walk for Life, you probably haven’t seen the massive and overwhelmingly youthful crowds at these events.

          • redbean

            Ora et labora, Mr. Bill.

    • redbean

      Slavery used to be legal, too.

      • Eric Blair

        Why yes it was, and was acknowledged even in the Constitution. However, I consider that a false equivalence, and I see a significant distinction. We can focus on the issue of abortion without referencing slavery (and hopefully Communism and Facism as well)

        • redbean

          The abortion-slavery connection stems from the ideology behind the Dred Scott Decision, not the Constitution. This ideology still thrives today. Lynne Jackson, great, great-granddaughter of Dred Scott explains it well:

          “Dred Scott and all slaves were told that they were not persons but property and we’re telling babies in the womb that they are not children but that they are the property of their mother. It was ‘inconvenient’ for the slaveholders to not have slaves; and it’s ‘inconvenient’ for mothers to have children they don’t want. But that doesn’t make them any less human.”

          Geography also matters in both cases. With slavery, you could be a slave in one state, but by stepping a few inches across that state’s border, become a free person (unless the bounty hunters caught you). Similarly, we assign civil rights to persons outside the womb, but deny them to persons on the other side of a “boundary” – mere inches away.

    • guest

      Eebie Geebee., suggest you submit your head over to ISIS or ISIl to have it examined or exhumed for whatever it’s dearth!

  • thevillageidiot

    personnal choices should be paid for by the person making the choice. not forcing everybody to pay. and yes that includes pregnancy. You make the choice you pay the bill. The choice goes way beyond a medical procedure. so after the procedure (a nice nautral PC word) we should all pay for the psychological trauma? So where is the other participant in the copulation equation? No say what so ever? shouldn’t the second party be also directly responsible? I guess there is no personnal reaponsibility left in the world.

    • Eric Blair

      No, procedure is not a “PC word.” LOL.. you don’t like the term, so you label it PC? The acronym PC has become so over-used that it has lost all meaning. Now it just means “a word or phrase I don’t like.”

      You would, of course, be willing to pay for abortions and pregnancy care it the woman was an unwilling, or a coerced, victim?

      Hopefully the other participant in the copulation equation was involved in the decision. However, since life is messy, men are not always willing to take responsibility for their actions (by your definition, wouldn’t “participant in the copulation equation be considered PC?). Since the woman is the one who is pregnant, and not the man, she ultimately gets to make the choice.

      I can only imagine how this country is going to look with all those people running around with untreated diabetes type 2 (if you have your way). I prefer a country that is a little more forgiving and wanting good health for their citizens, and where cost is frequently a secondary factor, not the primary one.

      • redbean

        “Procedure” is a neutral word, which makes it useful. Nothing like banality to lull us into complacence. The truth of the matter just doesn’t fit neatly into one word, you know, “since life is messy.”

        • Eric Blair

          Yet, abortion is just one word as well. Like it not, abortion is a medical procedure. Unless of course you would prefer it to be a back-alley assault?

          All words are messy and filled with meaning. The fact the procedure is neutral doesn’t make it banal. Perhaps you believe that emotionally charged words are preferable, words which can, at the other extreme, cloud a debate with emotion rather than fact or reason?

          • redbean

            Back-alley assault? How about Dr. Kermit Gosnell? His case exposed the abusive nature of this legal practice on women and children. Historically, abortion clinics have not been required to follow the same regulations as other medical facilities. Pro-lifers have been at the forefront of changing that in order to protect women.

            The emotional side of the debate is owned by pro-choicers and always has been. Facts and reason are on the side of life. The biological facts surrounding the death of a small human by vacuum suction are so horrific that our media refuses to describe it or show us the pictures of the aftermath.

    • redbean

      Good point that the “procedure” is not the end of the crisis for the parents. Let’s keep in mind, though, there are 3 people in the equation, not 2.

  • Ardbeg

    Israel has socialized medicine and legalized abortions and the GOP loves Israel. What’s the problem here?

  • Connie Kosuda

    the name please of the attorney from the Legislative Counsel. thanks.