February 2022 brought the short legislative session and my first opportunity to represent Oregon Right to Life (ORTL) at the Capitol. In even-numbered years, the legislature meets for a 35-day short session. What an eye-opening experience! ORTL introduced two bills: Senate Bill 1553 (Born Alive Infant Protection Act) and House Bill 4042 (the Abortion Pill Reversal Informed Consent Act).
Unfortunately, both bills died in committee without receiving a public hearing. Representative Rick Lewis, co-chief sponsor of HB 4042 with Representative Duane Stark, wrote, “I am disappointed that something as important as this issue is to so many people did not even receive the courtesy of a hearing and an opportunity for citizens to express their views.” Senator Dennis Linthicum, chief sponsor of SB1553, added, “These bills would have protected the lives of newborn infants and the ability of mothers to make informed decisions.”
HB 4034 was another disappointment. Within the omnibus bill, the Reproductive Health Equity Act (RHEA) was exempted from a sunset statute, continuing taxpayer-funded abortions indefinitely. The sections also adopted broad and vague language giving Oregon Health Authority (OHA) the authority to “implement reproductive health services and education programs and provide funding for reproductive health services and education in this state.” HB 4034 passed the House and Senate along party lines.
After the session ended, it was discovered that one of the last bills passed included a $15 million so-called Reproductive Equity Fund. Supporter Rep. Tawna Sanchez (D-North Portland) said, “People from states with more restrictive laws already travel to Oregon for abortion care, and we face the very real likelihood that other states will ban abortion and shutter clinics. We are rising to this alarming moment to invest in abortion access as a central foundation of Oregon’s healthcare infrastructure.”