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Oregon's New Abortion Law Protects Women's Health In The Age Of Trump

2017 too often seems like a hellish alternative timeline, the Berenstain Bears universe gone horribly wrong — especially for women and transgender individuals.

The AHCA and BCRA (House and Senate versions, respectively, of the healthcare bill, aka Trumpcare) would be disastrous for women's health — restricting access to contraception by dropping coverage and making it prohibitively expensive; restricting access to abortion; defining sexual assault, domestic abuse, and pregnancy as pre-existing conditions; and allowing states to waive coverage of pregnancy and preventative services.

Trumpcare would strip all Medicaid funding from Planned Parenthood for one year and $22 billion from the clinic's budget over the course of a decade, making access to care all but impossible for many women and gender nonconforming individuals.

And while a Senate vote has been delayed, conservative states are still passing restrictive reproductive laws, leading women to protest legislative sessions dressed as handmaids from The Handmaid's Tale.

But some blue states are leading the charge to protect reproductive rights.

The Oregon State Legislature just passed the Reproductive Health Equity Act (RHEA), which guarantees access to reproductive healthcare for all women and gender nonconforming individuals in the state of Oregon. It is the second state, after California, to do so.

Grayson Dempsey, the executive director of National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) Pro-Choice Oregon, stated in a press release,

As states across the country are stripping women of reproductive health services and coverage, Oregon is leading the way in not only protecting the right to legal abortion but in expanding coverage to ensure that no one is denied access to vital reproductive health services, from contraception to postpartum care.

Among the most controversial — but most essential — aspects of the bill: the RHEA will require state-funded coverage of no-cost abortion for women in Oregon despite citizenship status. Women with private insurance companies that do not cover the procedure based on religious beliefs would also be covered, and women whose high deductibles make the procedure too pricy will also be covered. The bill additionally prevents legislators from preventing abortion coverage by private insurers in the future.

But the bill isn't just about codifying the protection of legal abortion: Coverage of cancer screenings, STI screenings, prenatal  and postnatal care is guaranteed. The bill will also protect access to preventative care and contraception for women, trans individuals, and gender-nonconforming individuals. Protections for trans people is especially important, as gaining access to healthcare is often difficult and even dangerous.

It's a stark departure from both versions of Trumpcare — and the national conversation around women's health care, which has been contentious and even downright vitriolic.

Just recently, self-proclaimed alt-right “philosopher” Stefan Molyneux tweeted about birth control in a manner that highlights the (often willful) misunderstandings at the heart of this debate:

In other words, it's the morality clause: Birth control shouldn't be covered because it's “immoral,” and if you're “too poor” to afford it, that's your own fault. It shouldn't be covered because it's a matter of personal responsibility and a personal choice to have sex. And if you have sex, you run the risk of getting pregnant, too bad.

What Molyneux's argument misses is that poverty isn't a personal choice, and it's not a moral failing. Being in a certain tax bracket doesn't mean that you should be cut off from access to health care.

He's also wrong on a more pragmatic level: Birth control is often used for medical purposes, such as managing endometriosis and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). So birth control is health care, and denying coverage to women with these conditions based on the moralistic idea that they don't deserve birth control if they can't afford it is deplorable.

But even if women are using birth control for the purpose of preventing pregnancy, that should be applauded. Ostensibly, alt-right trolls like Molyneux (or anti-abortion politicians like Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell) want to decrease the number of abortions. And with access to contraception at an all-time high, the number of abortions has hit the lowest rate since the passage of Roe v. Wade.

Oregon's health protections bill would most likely lower the unplanned birth rate, which costs taxpayers upwards of $21 billion per year, according to the Washington Post. It will certainly prevent women who are not ready to be mothers from carrying the emotional and economic burden of unplanned pregnancies, which can negatively affect maternal mental health.

The bill also guarantees preventative care for individuals across gender identities and citizenship status, which lowers healthcare costs and preventable deaths.

And so, Oregon's RHEA is not only a matter of justice, guaranteeing equity for women, transgender people, and gender-nonconforming people across income brackets — it's good economic policy.

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Lisa Dunn

Staff Writer

Lisa is a news writer based in Portland, Oregon. She is currently researching and writing about abortion for her MFA in Creative Nonfiction.
Lisa is a news writer based in Portland, Oregon. She is currently researching and writing about abortion for her MFA in Creative Nonfiction.

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