Oregon Advances Bill Requiring Health Insurers To Pay For Abortions

The Oregon State Senate voted last week to force private insurance companies operating in the state to pay claims for abortion procedures. The Democrat-controlled body made provisions of a 2017 bill requiring insurers to provide abortions permanently.

The bill was supported by 18 Democratic state senators, while 8 Republicans voted against it. In addition to compelling insurance companies to cover abortions, the bill authorizes the Oregon Health Authority to create and administer reproductive health and abortion procedures and education programs funded by taxpayers.

In addition to abortion screening and procedures, the bill requires insurers to cover all FDA-approved “contraceptive drugs, devices or products.”

The new bill addresses the renewal of the state’s Reproductive Health Equity Act of 2017, subject to a mandatory sunset clause effective six years after the statute’s effective date. That law required private insurance companies to pay for abortions with no direct costs to patients during its term. The bill passed last week is designed to exempt the 2017 law from a decades-old state regulation that requires sunset clauses for any law requiring health insurers to cover specific types of coverage. That change would make the requirements of the 2017 law permanent.

The new bill does include a section that allows insurance companies to offer benefit plans to religious employers that exclude coverage for abortions and contraceptives when those procedures run against an employer’s religious convictions. The law requires that any excluded employer give notice to all eligible employees for plan coverage that the excluded services are not provided because of an employer’s religious objection.

Oregon Right to Life Executive Director Lois Anderson objected to the new law because it gives unaccountable authority to unelected officials to push an abortion agenda. She objected to the process of approving the bill as “frightening” because it was pushed through a short legislative session “without dialogue or debate.”

Because of the hurried process, Anderson said that citizens still are not aware of the bill. She said that pro-life advocates acted as quickly as possible to send thousands of emails and phone messages, although Democrats were generally non-responsive to objections made by citizens.