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Anti-abortion measure supporters can start seeking signatures

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Petitioners get permission to gather signatures to put a measure restricting state funding for abortions on the ballot in 2018

SALEM — Petitioners were granted permission last month to gather signatures to put a measure restricting state funding for abortions on the ballot in November 2018.

The effort, Initiative Petition 1, would amend the state's constitution to prohibit spending public funds for abortions, with certain exceptions, according to the Oregon Secretary of State's Office.

As written, the petition would allow public funds to be spent in circumstances where federal law requires states to provide funding for the procedure or when the procedure is medically necessary.

Abortions and vasectomies are excluded from coverage required under the Affordable Care Act, the federal health care law that is under threat of repeal in Congress.

A group of Democratic lawmakers in the Oregon House of Representatives this session is sponsoring legislation — called the Reproductive Health Equity Act — that would require health plans, except for those that are offered by religious employers, to cover abortions and vasectomies. It would also maintain no-cost birth control in the state.

The petition was approved for circulation Feb. 24. The petition needs 117,578 signatures to get on the ballot next year.

Similar petitions were filed in 2012, 2014 and 2016, but failed each time to qualify for the ballot.

Supporters of the initiative petition, in comments submitted to the secretary of state's office, argue that Oregonians who oppose abortion should not be obligated to fund the procedure through taxes.

Mary Nolan, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon, said in a statement that limitations on abortion would negatively affect low-income women, immigrants, young women and women of color in the state.

"When a woman is living paycheck to paycheck, denying coverage can push her deeper into poverty," Nolan said.