The Law at a Glance: The Reproductive Health Equity Act


House Bill 3391 is known in some circles as the abortion bill, but is more commonly called the Reproductive Health Equity Act. It was introduced in summer of 2017 in the 79th Oregon Legislative Assembly. It passed through the House with a vote of 33-23, with no Republican votes. It was signed into law after passing through the Senate on August 15th. The Reproductive Health Equity Act offers a wide range of reproductive health care opportunities to people who may not otherwise be capable of affording it.

Several Oregon based pro-life movements, including Oregon Life United and Oregon Right to Life, are rallying against this law and tax-payer funded abortion. Supposedly, and surprisingly this is only mentioned by pro-life groups, this law violates a federal law known as the Weldon Amendment, which is a law prohibiting discrimination against health plans based upon their decision to cover abortions in states that receive federal dollars. While it’s an understandable argument, this does not acknowledge the religious exemption, nor the other aspects of HB 3391. OLU and ORL are targeting specifically the abortion and funding aspects of the Reproductive Health Equity Act, but this causes a conflict with the funding for the law. The budgeting includes everything mentioned by the law, but when abortion funding gets attacked, it will most likely alter the overall budget. This is problematic because alterations to the budget would decrease funding for other aspects of the law, which, because there’s so many other pieces, are more likely to be used for non-abortion expenditures anyways.

So much of this law is overlooked in favour of only seeing the words “abortion” and “contraception” throughout. Instead, one could choose to focus on the coverage of counseling for domestic abuse victims, cancer screening, STD screening, counseling and intervention for tobacco use, and breastfeeding support. This opens up so much room for improvement for so many people’s standard of living. There’s no discrimination based on economic status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or immigration status. Anyone would have the right to reproductive health.

While this law has contraceptive clauses, it focuses more on overall reproductive care. The purpose of this law is to institute reproductive health equity, whether or not someone can pay for it on their own. Much of the bill deals with screening of sexual transmitted disease, or breast or cervical cancer. As introduced, Abortion is only directly mentioned in section 2, clauses 2g and 9,  and section 8. Contraceptive drugs are mentioned more frequently, however this is only to specify when and why it is covered. Poverty-stricken pregnant woman have a greater chance for affordable prenatal care, and more children have the chance to be born without tobacco and nicotine adling their development. Even more so, expectant mothers who live in homes wrought with abuse have the chance to begin repairing their situation or simply start healing through counseling. Women and men who are victims of violence, whether or not there’s children involved, have the chance at a way out and an opportunity to go to therapy without going completely broke.