Skip to main content

Oregon Supports Abortion Rights While Other States Endorse Restrictions

Oregon voters trounced an anti-abortion measure, unlike voters in Alabama and West Virginia or in Indiana, North Dakota and Missouri where anti-abortion Republican senators won seats held by Democrats.
CC BY 2.0
November 6, 2018

Oregonians trounced a ballot measure that would have banned public funding of abortions, marking the fourth time that the state has endorsed abortion rights at the polls.

A total of 64 percent of Oregon voters opposed Measure 106, which would have banned state funding of abortions for low-income residents on Medicaid except in cases of medical necessity. It also would have prohibited public funding for abortions for public-sector employees.

Oregon is among 17 states that allow state funding of abortions. It also guarantees the right of undocumented women to receive abortions paid by the state and, starting Jan. 1, will force private insurance plans to cover the full cost of abortions, even if a woman has to go out of network.

Abortion rights advocates, who consider Oregon a political standard-bearer, welcomed the vote.

“We were very pleased that we won by such a large margin,” Grayson Dempsey, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon, told The Lund Report.

But abortion opponents also rejoiced -- about results elsewhere in the country.

“Yesterday was a clear victory for the pro-life movement,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List, said in a statement.

While Oregon rejected the measure, similar proposals won voter support in Alabama and West Virginia, and three states -- Indiana, Missouri and North Dakota -- replaced Democratic senators who support abortion rights with Republicans who favor restrictions.

The measures that passed in Alabama and West Virginia will change those states’ constitutions to say that they do not guarantee the right to an abortion or public funding for the procedure. The West Virginia amendment makes no allowances for rape, incest or the medical condition of the mother, while the Alabama measure gives unborn children constitutional rights.

The three abortion opponents running for the U.S. Senate -- Mike Braun, Josh Hawley and Kevin Cramer -- won seats in Indiana, Missouri and North Dakota respectively, defeating incumbent Democrats Joe Donnelly in Indiana, Claire McCaskill in Missouri and Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota.

All three Democrats -- plus fellow party member U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida -- voted against the Supreme Court confirmation of conservative Brett Kavanaugh, who is considered to be an abortion opponent. Though he said during his Senate hearing that Roe v. Wade marks an important precedent he also wrote in a dissenting opinion last year as a U.S. District Court judge that “the government has permissible interests in favoring fetal life, protecting the best interests of a minor and refraining from facilitating abortion.”

He was chosen among a number of candidates by President Donald Trump who has promised to put anti-abortion judges on the top court.

Dannenfelser said abortion opponents mobilized voters in the election and affirmed Trump’s agenda. the pro-life movement has effectively mobilized voters and affirmed President Trump’s pro-life agenda.  

“In competitive battleground states, pro-lifers who don’t typically vote in midterm elections delivered victory for pro-life Senate candidates,” Dannenfelser said.

Their election could lead to the confirmation of other anti-choice judges in the Senate. Abortion rights advocates also worry about Roe v. Wade.

“What’s happening on the national level is really scary,” Dempsey said. “We have a Supreme Court that is now heavily loaded with justices who have shown a propensity for restricting abortion rights and perhaps even overturning Roe versus Wade.”

It’s possible that the measures passed in Alabama and West Virginia could spark court fights based on that precedent, which ensures a woman’s right to an abortion, with them ending up on  the Supreme Court.

If the court were to overturn the case, abortion rights would be bounced back to the states, giving the U.S. a patchwork of rules and access. Law would go into effect in four states -- Louisiana, Mississippi and North and South Dakota -- banning some or all abortions, and nine other states -- have bans on the books that were never repealed after Roe v. Wade.

Only eight states, including Oregon and Washington, protect abortion rights.

You can reach Lynne Terry at [email protected].