by Kara Carmosino
Director of Programs and Strategies
Three years ago, on a blustery December day at Menucha Retreat Center, a handful of APANO members and staff were huddled over a large roll of paper with other reproductive justice leaders in Oregon. We were just beginning to discuss the statewide bill that would become the Reproductive Health Equity Act (HB 3391), diving deep into goals, targets and campaign strategy. We could dream up, but couldn’t yet fully imagine, the road that would take us all the way to this past Wednesday, when the Oregon Senate voted 17-13 to pass our bill and send it to the governor for her signature.
In the years in between, APANO members and staff have supported a truly coalitional effort that collected nearly 10,000 petition signatures, gave dozens of workshops on strong families and reproductive justice, created art and collected stories to include transgender and gender-nonconforming people, as well as immigrants and refugees, in the narratives around who needs reproductive health care. We launched a Mend the Gap report that directly challenged the myth that everyone in Oregon already has access to the reproductive health care they need. And we built a policy and a campaign that centered the stories of those who need this win the most.
The Reproductive Health Equity Act (HB 3391) will:
- safeguard the right to abortion if Roe v. Wade were overturned;
- protect no-cost coverage for preventive reproductive health care for every Oregonian with commercial health insurance if the Affordable Care Act were overturned;
- expand postpartum care to about 48,000 Oregonians of reproductive age who have coverage for labor and delivery that drops immediately after birth;
- make safe, legal abortion more affordable and accessible for about 43,000 Oregon women of reproductive age who have high-deductible policies;
- help more than 18,600 Oregon women of reproductive age who are forced to pay out-of- pocket costs for preventive health services, including contraception; and
- remove procedural barriers that hinder access to essential reproductive health care services, including prenatal care and lifesaving cancer screenings, for transgender and gender-nonconforming Oregonians.
APANO member and reproductive justice leader Marilou Carrera is fond of saying, “Good health policy saves lives.” And as Senator Elizabeth Steiner Hayward stated simply and conclusively, in her closing remarks before the Senate vote this past Wednesday, “This is a healthcare bill.”
We applaud our elected leaders for passing this groundbreaking piece of legislation (please thank them here!). And, as with all wins, we also remember to look for the organizers. This victory belongs to so many people, from those who canvassed events two summers ago, to those who bravely shared their stories, to those who signed petitions and lobbied in the capitol. Thank you to every APANO member and supporter who took action with us to get us here today!
What does the bill’s passage mean to some of our APANO members? Here are their words:
“As a Pacific Islander who is Samoan and also identifies as a ‘fa’afatama, fa’atama, fa’atamaloa’ that is ‘in a manner of a male’ in Samoan or a female who is masculine of center presenting, it is such a huge relief to know that through the passing of the Reproductive Health Equity Act, there is a sense of dignity and trust restored and reassured that people like me, as well as for those who identify as Two Spirit, genderqueer, and/or transgender, will have the reproductive healthcare services available to us to make informed decisions with actual viable options for our health. This bill protects us and provides a safeguard to meet our needs with these vital reproductive health care services that otherwise would be stripped away on the federal level if the Affordable Care Act is repealed and replaced with the intended U.S. Senate bill. I am grateful that our elected state legislature is able to understand the necessity to properly address and treat as a priority this disparity for a marginalized group within an already marginalized group, which is why this wonderful policy victory is truly for all Oregonians.” – Malo
“I grew up in rural Oregon where there wasn’t always affordable, quality reproductive health care available. The Reproductive Health Equity Act victory means more coverage for all Oregonians, from the metro to remote areas. Also, as a person who wants to eventually start a family, I feel fortunate that this Act passed and will protect coverage for a full range of reproductive health services, from family planning to postpartum care.” – Jillian
“This bill makes me hopeful because it encapsulates what intersectional legislation looks like and I am grateful to the legislators that voted in essence to recognize all the communities that courageously came together to make a difference on an issue that impacted all of us. I’ve ultimately learned that much of our personal liberties and destinies are entwined with control over our *own* reproductive health. The truth is that many women, people of color, transgender people, and working poor were barred from access to reproductive healthcare due to a flawed system that has discriminated against certain communities based on a number of exclusionary standards. The Reproductive Health Equity Act is a significant step toward deconstructing these barriers, all while safeguarding Roe v. Wade.” – Chrissy
“I am grateful to the reproductive rights coalition and the state legislature who courageously passed the Reproductive Health Equity Act. I hold in my heart the women who made wrenching decisions before safe and legal abortions were available. Passage of the Reproductive Health Equity Act ensures Oregonians’ rights to make deeply personal choices for themselves and their families and safeguards this right if Roe v Wade is ever overturned.” – Jean