Health Reproductive Rights

Oregon Passes Reproductive Health Equity Bill

Last week, amidst the rise of anti-abortion state legislation, Oregon became the first state to pass legislation to solidify and ensure equal access to abortion and birth control for all state residents.

Lawmakers, in collaboration with the Pro-Choice Coalition of Oregon, introduced a bill in January entitled the Reproductive Health Equity Act of 2017. The bill ensures no-cost birth control and health services such as cancer screenings, preventative care, abortions, STI testing, and pre-natal and post-partum care to all residents of Oregon. The bill also covers undocumented immigrants, gender non-conforming people, and transgender individuals according to the Pro-Choice Coalition of Oregon’s press release from January. All of these reproductive health services will be available at no-cost to any individual, even if the Affordable Care Act were to be repealed.

In July, the bill passed Oregon’s Senate, and Governor Kate Brown signed the bill into law on August 15. This law serves as an example of the most comprehensive law to protect access to reproductive health care at the state level. The bill also provides additional coverage to thousands of Oregon residents who are covered by insurance plans that were “grandfathered” in after the passage of the ACA (allowing those insurers to be exempt from the employer mandate for no-cost birth control) or are on high-deductible plans that make paying for contraception or abortion nearly impossible.

Several states have moved to pass legislation to ensure that birth control remains cost-free and accessible after the Trump Administration declared its intent to rollback parts of the Affordable Care Act including the contraceptive mandate for employers. Now, 28 states have laws that improve access to contraceptives including Nevada where Republican Governor Brian Sandoval signed a bill in June that requires insurers to offer 12-months of no-cost birth control.

These “reproductive health equity” or “contraceptive equity” bills come at a time when state anti-abortion legislation is on the rise. In Texas just last week, the state Senate passed House Bill 214 which bans all private health insurance plans and plans sold through the Affordable Care Act marketplace from covering abortion care unless the life of the woman is directly at risk. Instead, women would be required to buy supplemental insurance should they ever think they may need or want an abortion, prompting some Democratic lawmakers to accuse Republicans of forcing women to buy “rape insurance.”

Texas joins ten other states that require additional insurance to cover abortion procedures including Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Utah. Only Utah and Indiana make exceptions to this rule in cases of rape and incest.

Media Resources: Feminist Newswire 8/17/17; Slate 7/6/17; US News 8/15/17; New York Times 6/9/17; Mother Jones 1/23/17

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