Forced Births for Poor OR Women & Girls Initiative

The campaign to force deny poor women and girls access to abortion services through funding restrictions was the first initiative campaign to file a measure for the November 2018 general election. Proponents filed a proposed constitutional amendment on 27 June 2016 that would not only prohibit direct state funding for abortion services but would also prevent public funding of insurance plans that offer abortion coverage.

The People of Oregon hereby amend the Oregon Constitution by adding the following: SECTION 1. PROHIBITION ON PUBLIC FUNDING FOR ABORTIONS.
The state shall not spend public funds for any abortion, except when medically necessary or as may be required by federal law.
 
SECTION 2. DEFINITIONS.
 
As used in this Article:
 

  1. “Public funds” means funds and moneys under the control or in the custody of the State of Oregon or any of its political subdivisions or public officials.
  1. “Abortion” means the purposeful termination of a clinically diagnosed pregnancy of a woman resulting in the death of the human embryo or fetus.
  1. “Medically necessary” means a condition in which a licensed physician determines that the pregnant woman suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness that would place her in danger of death unless an abortion is performed, including a life- endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself.

 
SECTION 3. EXCEPTIONS.
 

  1. Public funds may be spent to pay for an abortion when federal law requires states to provide funding for abortions, such as in circumstances including rape or incest, in which case this Article shall be applied consistent with federal law to the extent the federal requirement is found to be constitutional.
  1. Public funds may be spent to pay for the termination of a clinically diagnosed ectopic pregnancy.

 
SECTION 4. OTHER PROVISIONS.
 
Nothing in this Article shall be construed as prohibiting the expenditure of public funds to pay for health insurance as long as such funds are not spent to pay or reimburse for the costs of performing abortions.

The proponents submitted the following as their proposed summary explanation of the amendment for the petitions to carry:

DRAFT BALLOT TITLE
 
Amends Constitution: Prohibits state from spending “public funds” (defined) for “abortion” (defined); reduces abortion access
 

Result of “Yes” Vote:  “Yes” vote amends constitution, prohibits state spending “public funds” (defined) for “abortion” (defined); state may not pay for insurance covering “abortion”; reduces abortion access; exceptions.

Result of “No” Vote: “No” vote retains current law allowing state to spend public funds for abortion or health insurance plans covering abortion when medical professional determines medically necessary.
 
Summary: Amends Constitution. Current law allows abortion to be provided, when determined by medical professional to be medically necessary, under public health plans available to qualified and eligible persons, or under health insurance policies obtained through a public employer or other public service. Measure amends constitution to prohibit the state from spending “public funds” (defined) to pay for any “abortion” (defined). The state may not pay for insurance benefits that cover “abortion.” Effect on spending by public entities other than the state is unclear. Measure reduces access to abortion.  Measure defines “abortion” as “purposeful termination of a clinically diagnosed pregnancy.” Exceptions for payments required by federal law and for abortion to terminate ectopic pregnancy or to prevent death of pregnant woman; other exceptions.  Other provisions.

The effect of these sorts of restrictions cannot be understated, as they would turn Oregon further into a two-class health care system, where poor women and girls would be even further burdened by restrictions on access to the same services that wealthy women can obtain. The Guttmacher Institute, the nation’s premier researchers on reproductive health, have published an excellent summary of the forced-birth movement’s campaign to use backdoor methods, such as insurance funding restrictions, to reduce access to abortions nationally. Although Oregon is currently among the states without abortion restrictions, the state level Hyde amendment proposed in this initiative would reverse that completely.