Ballot Measure 106 is the third attempt in Oregon to forbid the use of public money to pay for abortions. The first two failed with no votes of 52 percent in 1978 and 55 percent in 1986. This one, which barely made the ballot, should suffer a similar fate.
Oregon is one of 17 states that use state tax dollars to cover abortions for low-income women (federal law forbids using Medicaid funding for abortions except in the case of rape or incest). But it’s not just low-income women who would be affected if Measure 106 passed. More than 77,000 women of childbearing age are state employees or teachers covered under state health plans that cover abortion. Those women, too, would lose that coverage.
Let’s dispense with the idea that this is about whether abortion is right or wrong. Abortion is legal, and will remain legal even if Measure 106 passes. Women will continue to obtain abortions if they choose to. This measure will decide who can make that choice — women who can afford it, or have private insurance that covers it — and who cannot.
Supporters of Measure 106 argue that Oregonians who oppose abortion shouldn’t be forced to help pay for it with their tax dollars. That’s not how taxation works. Many people object to their tax dollars being spent for nuclear missiles and other military weapons, or for any number of other government functions they may oppose. They still have to pay taxes, and they can’t pick and choose how those dollars are spent.
According to Oregon Health Plan records, about 3,600 women had abortions covered by the plan, last year at a cost of about $2 million. But the secretary of state’s official fiscal impact statement for Measure 106 estimates that Oregon would spend $19.3 million more if the measure passes because of increased births resulting in higher costs for health care, food and nutrition services provided by state programs.
The architect of the measure, Jeff Jimerson of Corvallis, told Oregon Public Broadcasting that he believes public funding means more abortions. “When you offer something free to somebody, people will take something even when it’s not the best option for them,” he said.
The idea that women will choose to have an abortion they otherwise wouldn’t have simply because it’s free is insulting and disrespectful. It’s not the state’s business to make that decision for anyone.
Measure 106 would not outlaw abortion, but it would restrict the choice to women who can afford it.
We recommend a no vote.