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Pro-choice advocates celebrated as Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed a law on Tuesday requiring insurance providers to cover abortion and access to contraception. (Photo: ACLU of Oregon)

Oregon Lauded as Progressive Model for Reproductive Healthcare Reform

As Republican-led states like Texas enact restrictions on reproductive care, "Oregonians are showing the rest of the country what it means to be resilient and visionary."

Jessica Corbett

As Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed on Tuesday a law that bans state insurance providers from covering abortion, pro-choice advocates celebrated a bill signed by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown that proponents are calling the nation's most progressive reproductive healthcare policy.

"There is still work to be done, but today we celebrate that more Oregonians have the freedom to decide if and when they have children based on what's best for them and their family's circumstances."
—Amy Casso, Western States Center

Oregon's Reproductive Health Equity Act, or House Bill 3391, expands access to birth control, abortion, and other reproductive services to thousands of Oregon residents regardless of their citizenship status, gender identity, income, or type of insurance.

"This is an amazing victory, and it's all the more significant given the current political landscape," said Amy Casso, Gender Justice program director for Western States Center. "In the face of relentless rollbacks and attacks at the federal level, Oregonians are showing the rest of the country what it means to be resilient and visionary."

"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 healthcare," said Laurel Swerdlow, advocacy director for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon.

In addition to attacks on healthcare at the federal level, the Houston Chronicle reports that along with Texas, 25 other states ban exchange plans established under the Affordable Care Act from providing abortion coverage, and eight ban private insurance plans from covering abortions without exceptions for rape and incest. Texas's new law, which also doesn't offer exceptions, requires women to pay extra premiums—or as opponents have described it, "rape insurance"—for plans that cover abortions.

Despite these measures as well as "efforts in two dozen states, most of them led by Republicans, to restrict access to abortion in recent years by imposing strict new regulations on the procedure and on those who provide it," as the Washington Post reports, supporters of Oregon's law point to it as an example for other states.

"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 Swerdlow.

"There is still work to be done, but today we celebrate that more Oregonians have the freedom to decide if and when they have children based on what's best for them and their family's circumstances," said Casso.

The law was passed to help provide quality reproductive healthcare for those who often encounter significant systemic barriers to receiving care, particularly immigrant women, low-income women, survivors of domestic violence, transgender and gender-nonconforming people, women of color, and young women, according to the ACLU of Oregon, a member of the Pro-Choice Coalition of Oregon, which helped write the law.

Insurance providers in Oregon will now be required to cover abortion and contraception, and insurers cannot shift those costs to enrollees' deductibles, co-insurance, or co-payments. Only two other states—California and New York—require all private health insurance plans to cover abortion, the Associated Press reports.

The law will also allocate "almost $500,000 from Oregon's general fund over the next two years to expand cost-free reproductive health coverage, including abortions, to immigrants who are otherwise ineligible under the state's Medicaid program," AP reports.

Portland Patch provided a breakdown of the new law's impact, based on coalition data:

  • 900,000 Oregonians covered by private insurance now have expanded reproductive health coverage;
  • 360,000 Oregon women now have protected access to copay-free preventive healthcare services under the Affordable Care Act;
  • 48,000 low-income mothers in Oregon can receive coverage that now extends past delivery to include follow-up visits during the postpartum period;
  • 43,000 Oregon women of reproductive age with high-deductible policies now have abortion coverage at no out-of-pocket cost;
  • 18,600 Oregon women of reproductive age can purchase insurance plans that now cannot charge them a co-pay or other out-of-pocket costs for preventive health services, including contraception.

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