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Oregonians Pushing for Most Progressive Reproductive Health Bill in Nation

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Friday, May 26, 2017   

SALEM, Ore. – Oregonians are hoping for some action in Salem on a bill aimed at expanding and protecting access to reproductive-health services.

House Bill 3391, known as the Reproductive Health Equity Act, would require health plans to cover health care services, drugs, devices and procedures related to reproductive health, including safe and legal abortions. Although it was put together before federal plans to scrap the Affordable Care Act were revealed, the bill would serve as a fortification for reproductive rights in Oregon.

Charley Downing, a member of reproductive rights group We Are BRAVE, says it was developed around the needs of marginalized communities in the state.

"Who are most impacted by the gaps that exist?" she asks. "How do we elevate those voices? What are those voices and communities saying that they need access to? Then how do we go about keeping those folks centered?"

The bill received a Senate hearing this week. It currently is in the House Committee on Ways and Means.

Opponents say the religious exemption to providing these services is too narrow.

The bill does a few things to make reproductive health coverage more accessible for those who can least afford it. It requires insurers to cover contraception, adds abortions to the list of services that must be covered at no cost to the patient, includes postpartum care in coverage, and prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

Downing says these last two requirements will be especially helpful for communities facing barriers to coverage.

"Our non-documented citizens who are still experiencing gaps in coverage despite really great work that's been done across the state," she says. "And then for our non-gender-conforming or non-binary folks, making sure that they also have access to comprehensive health care."

Marilou Carrera is a community health improvement plan manager the Oregon Health Equity Alliance and a member of We Are Brave. Carrera used to work as a nurse and says she saw a need for more access to care. Often, she says, affordability or someone's circumstance in life was the determining factor in their decisions regarding reproductive health.

"From a legal perspective, we have these rights to access care," she says. "And then, circumstantially, what are the things that also determine or affect our well-being besides just the health system itself?"


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