In the 2022 Oregon Legislative Session, we spent most of our time on three bills. One of those was HB 4034, an omnibus bill that included the expansion of abortion in Oregon.
This bill was a buffet of barely linked provisions that cannot be shortly summarized. Maybe that’s why it’s just been called “A bill relating to health care.” Unfortunately, included in this extensive bill were portions pushing a pro-abortion agenda. Specifically, sections 9–10 make the Reproductive Healthcare Equity Act (RHEA) permanent and give OHA the ability to do whatever they want regarding abortion.
RHEA was made permanent by exempting it from a longstanding law that would have automatically sunset it after six years. RHEA, which passed in 2017, is one of the most radical abortion laws in the United States. It forces healthcare insurance providers to cover abortions at no cost to people who seek abortions. Worse, it allows Oregon to use taxpayer funds to cover abortions for people on Oregon Health Plan. All this in the state with zero restrictions on abortion and no protections for children born alive after attempted abortions.
House Bill 4034 also gave OHA the ability to create and enforce “reproductive healthcare” policy through the rulemaking process. This provision essentially means that OHA can do whatever they want without legislative oversight. HB 4034 gave them the ability to “implement reproductive health services and education programs.” If this sounds vague and unclear, that’s the same reaction we had. When we read this, we became very concerned that OHA would be receiving unilateral authority to push their pro-abortion agenda unchecked, maybe even in schools.
We were concerned about the vague language in this bill. We suspected something was going on behind the scenes. Unfortunately, it looks like our concerns were well-founded. Pro-abortion politicians are using the authority granted by HB 4034 to OHA to fund abortions for people from other states which have more restrictions on abortions, such as Idaho, which just passed a heartbeat law similar to the one in Texas and has multiple “trigger laws” depending on the Supreme Court ruling on Dobbs. The legislature appropriated $15 million to OHA for a “reproductive health equity fund.” It appears they intend to use this to fund abortions and travel costs for people from other states in retaliation for pro-life legislation that recently passed there. Let us be clear. There is no explicit statutory provision for this—only this new, undefined, unlimited power to push abortion.
The vagueness of this bill does present an opportunity. If we elect a pro-life governor, we can stop this gross misuse of taxpayer funds. And now might be our best chance in a generation to do just that. Between this and the opportunities to pass pro-life legislation should Roe v. Wade be overturned, it is more important than ever to support pro-life candidates. We can stop this injustice.