A ballot initiative in the state of Oregon could, if passed, ban the use of public funds for abortion on demand, which has directly cost taxpayers nearly $25 million since 2002.
If Measure 106 passes, it would amend the state constitution to allow funds for abortion only in cases where it is required under federal law, or if a woman is in danger of death due to her physical condition.
It would also allow public funds to pay for the termination of a clinically diagnosed ectopic pregnancy, in which the fetus grows outside the uterus, causing the potential for complications.
Current Oregon law provides no protection from abortion for the unborn child for any reason and at any stage in pregnancy. Those eligible for Medicaid can obtain an unlimited number of abortions, for any reason, according to the “Yes on 106” campaign.
Jeff Jimerson, an Oregon graphic designer, spent two years gathering enough signatures to win his proposal a spot on the November ballot.
Opponents of the measure have cited studies, including a 2009 report from the Planned Parenthood-aligned Guttmacher Institute, that suggest that women seeking an abortion are more likely to seek other options when public funds are not available to pay for the procedure.
The federal government and about two-thirds of all U.S. states already have partial bans on the use of public funds for abortion, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting. The federal government bans the use of federal funds for abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or to save the mother’s life.
But Oregon is one of 17 states which offers abortions paid for by state funds to women eligible for Medicaid, who are typically low-income. According to the Oregon Health Authority, about 3,600 abortions were paid for in fiscal year 17-18 alone by the Oregon Health Plan, the state’s version of Medicaid, at a cost of nearly $2 million to taxpayers.
Oregon’s governor signed a law last summer requiring Oregon insurers to cover abortion on demand and increasing taxpayer funding for abortion, drawing strong criticism from Catholic leaders. At the time of its passage, the law provided for about $500,000 over the next two years to expand free reproductive health coverage, including abortion, to immigrants.
While some religious exemptions were provided for, such as in the case of churches and some religious non-profits per federal law, the law provided that the government would step in to pay for coverage in the case of such gaps.
“By insisting on complete insurance coverage of abortion, including late-term and sex-selective abortions, the legislature shows itself intolerant of widely-held opposing views and will compel thousands of Oregonians to support what their conscience rejects,” the Oregon Catholic Conference said in July 2017.