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Oregon Legislation Provides Free Abortions For All

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Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, said on July 6 she would sign legislation providing free access to abortion for anyone in the state.

Democrats voted in favor of the legislation in the House and the Senate in the face of Republican opposition, according to The Washington Times.

"The ability to control our bodies and make informed decisions about health are critical to providing all Oregonians the opportunity to achieve our full potential and live productive, thriving lives," Brown said in an emailed statement provided to the Times. "Attempts to deny access to contraceptives and family planning are an attack on all Oregonians, particularly women of color, low-income and young women."

The Reproductive Health Equity Act requires insurers to cover the cost of abortions in the state, The Associated Press reports. The bill does offer some religious-based exemptions.

The legislation will also enable women to access a variety of other reproductive healthcare services, according to The Portland Mercury. Coverage will also apply to undocumented women.

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The debate in the State House resulted in disagreements between Democrats and Republicans.

"We don't need to do this," Republican State Rep. Mike Nearman argued, according to The Washington Times. "This is Oregon. There [are] no legal restrictions on anyone's right to get an abortion. You can get an abortion at any time for any reason. Even sex selection."

The legislation will see Oregon's branch of Planned Parenthood deal with abortion patients, something Republicans criticized as being politically motivated. It comes at a time when Republicans at the federal level have made threats to cut funding for the healthcare provider.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price has raised the possibility of removing birth control as an essential healthcare benefit, The Mercury reports.

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"The bill also plants a clear flag: Regardless of any possible federal action to come, the state of Oregon will protect reproductive health care rights for all residents," Democratic State Rep. Pam Marsh added, according to the Times.

In addition, the bill ensures women will be able to access free contraception, a move welcomed by Democrats.

"Increasing access to contraception and pregnancy services in Oregon has been paying off by reducing unintended pregnancies," a statement from Oregon Senate Democrats read. "The state's abortion rate is nearly half what it was in recent decades, dropping from 15,700 in 1980 to 8,600 in 2015."

This is challenged by Republicans, who suggest the new legislation will result in taxpayers footing the bill for a significant rise in abortions.

"Will House Bill 3391 increase or decrease the number of abortions in the state of Oregon?" Republican state Representative Werner Reschke added. "If it will decrease the number, then sign me up. But I'm afraid we all know that's not the case. The number will inevitably increase."

Sources: The Washington Times, The Portland Mercury, AP via U.S. News and World Report / Photo credit: Nick Choy via Oregon National Guard/Flickr, Jason van Mourik via Oregon National Guard/Flickr, Another Believer/Wikimedia Commons

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