APANO Health Forum Focuses on Politics, Language, Lobbying

Landmark legislation to ensure abortion access to all Oregon women appears dead for 2015 session

With one of APANO’s top legislative priorities in danger, the 2015 Community Health Forum had the feel of a political rally.

“We need to find political will,” said Aimee Santos-Lyons, director of programs for the Western States Center, one of the groups sponsoring the day-long gathering of the advocacy and policy organization working for equity for Oregon’s 220,000 Asians and Pacific Islanders.

Jo Ann Hardesty, president of NAACP Portland chapter and part of the reproductive rights advocacy organization with Western States, told the gathering that SB 894, known as the Comprehensive Women’s Health Bill, faces a crucial deadline this week.

“If it doesn’t have a hearing by April 10, it is dead in the water,” said Hardesty.

SB 894 sought to fill gaps in existing Oregon law and provide clarity to ensure federal law doesn’t pre-empt Oregon’s reproductive healthcare practices. The bill requires all insurers -- no matter the payer – to cover contraception, prenatal care, childbirth, post-partum care – and abortion.

“There are members in my Democratic caucus that don’t want the word ‘abortion’ used,” said Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson, D-Gresham, who opted not to schedule a hearing on the bill because “I couldn’t get the votes,” particularly without the religious exceptions.

Instead, Monnes Anderson is working with insurers, NARAL and Planned Parenthood to insert one element of SB 894 into another bill that would allow women to get multiple months of contraception at one time. Currently, only a 30 day’s supply can be dispensed.

Hardesty said a 30-day supply does not adequately serve the needs of women in remote rural communities or those without access to transportation. Monnes Anderson said a 30-day supply doesn’t even serve many college students and others who don’t reside in one place.

Monnes Anderson hopes to work with insurers to get up to six months of contraceptives dispensed at one time, another compromise from the 12-month supply sought in SB 894.

Jean Yamamoto, chair of the Health Equity and Reform Team at APANO, helped coach members for an April 13 lobby day that seeks to match the volume of other, better financed lobbies such as the insurance lobby. “We have loud, equally strong voices but we have to show up,” Yamamoto told the group.

In addition to the Comprehensive Women’s Health bill, APANO supports HB 2934 aimed at creating a state-run Basic Health Plan to increase affordability and bring insurance to 85,000 low-income Oregonians. Even with the expansion of Medicaid and tax subsidies, some Oregonians cannot afford insurance or access Medicaid, including about 7,000 Oregonians from the Marshall Island, the Federated States of Micronesia and Palau. APANO also supports HB 2005 and SB 454, which would require all employers to implement paid sick-leave benefits.

“Next year we need to figure out what language they can support,” said Santos-Lyons on the reproductive health issue.

“They have come forward very bold,” said Monnes Anderson of the supporters of SB 894. “But sometimes it takes a long time for a culture to change.”

Jan can be reached at [email protected]

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Comments

Additional detail would have been appreciated. What's at risk if the bill fails to move? Are the various substantive options then up to the individual insurance policies, or individual employers, or what?

Rand Dawson