Measure 106, on the ballot this November, would amend the Oregon Constitution to ban public funding for abortion. The language of Measure 106 is misleading and deceptive, but voters should not be fooled. As the Oregon Supreme Court has made clear, Measure 106 would have an “undisputed impact on access to abortion.” By restricting abortion access to only those who can afford it, the measure would compromise the health care and economic security of some of the most vulnerable women and families in our state.
Measure 106 would dismantle critical health care protections for all Oregonians. In 2017, Oregon enacted the Reproductive Health Equity Act, which prevents the state from restricting abortion, no matter what happens to Roe v. Wade. Measure 106 partially repeals this new law. Measure 106 also repeals the constitutional right to equal insurance coverage for women, including for abortion care, recognized by the Oregon Court of Appeals more than 30 years ago.
Measure 106 would deprive more than 350,000 Oregonians of full reproductive health coverage. Measure 106 mandates inferior coverage under the Oregon Health Plan and inferior insurance plans for all public employees, both state and local.
Measure 106’s exceptions are illusory and function only to mask the extreme nature of this initiative. First, Measure 106 excludes abortions that are “medically necessary.” But it defines this as only those cases where abortion is necessary to save the life of the mother (including an ectopic pregnancy). Under this initiative, all other physical or mental health risks to the mother, no matter how grave, are insufficient to make an abortion “medically necessary."
Second, Measure 106 excludes cases where public funding of abortion is required by federal law “such as in circumstances including rape and incest.” But, as the proponents are well aware, there is currently no federal requirement for public funding of abortion. The implication that Measure 106 incorporates an exception for victims of rape and incest is false—the measure contains no such exception. Measure 106 would further traumatize victims of rape and incest by restricting their access to abortion.
To top it off, Measure 106 is poorly written, giving extremists an opportunity to argue for other far-reaching impacts. For example, it defines abortion broadly enough that some may assert that it covers contraceptives. While this argument improperly blurs scientific distinctions between abortion and contraceptives, it recently gained notoriety in Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing, when he explained his dissent supporting plaintiffs who claimed that contraceptives were “abortion-inducing drugs.”
There are many reasons to vote no on Measure 106. But it all boils down to this: In our state, every women should be able to decide whether and when to become a parent, no matter how much money she makes or what insurance she carries. Measure 106 proposes to permanently undermine this fundamental principle by enshrining a backdoor ban on abortion in the Oregon Constitution. Please vote no on Measure 106.
This piece was originally submitted to The Statesman Journal.
Katherine McDowell has been a cooperating attorney with the ACLU of Oregon for thirty years. She is the ACLU of Oregon’s Vice-President for Legal Affairs, and Lawyers Committee chair. The ACLU of Oregon is a member of No Cuts to Care. No Cuts to Care is a coalition of over 100 trusted organizations, businesses, and community leaders from across the state who are urging Oregonians to vote NO on Measure 106. For the full coalition list, please visit: https://nocutstocare.com/coalition/.