Fight over abortion comes to Oregon as Republicans target reproductive rights in U.S.

 

 

PORTLAND, Ore. – Megan Chambers was 27, the mother of two children younger than 5, trapped in a toxic marriage. She was also pregnant.

Discussions with her then-husband, her mother and her close friends led to an clear, but hard, conclusion: Chambers would have an abortion. She scheduled the procedure at a local Planned Parenthood, a decision she said she has never regretted. As a Medicaid patient in what is widely considered the most pro-abortion state in the country, Chambers paid nothing out of pocket.

“I know the cost of motherhood,” said Chambers, now 30. “I had done the emotional and physical labor of parenting two kids. … So I chose myself and my children.”

For most women who choose abortion, she said, “they’re choosing survival.”

But if anti-abortion groups in Oregon have their way next month, women who rely on tax dollars to fund their healthcare won’t have that choice going forward.

Framed as a tax debate, Measure 106 would amend the Oregon constitution to eliminate elective abortions for anyone on Medicaid or state-funded insurance, including public employees. It’s one of three anti-abortion measures before voters this November in the latest effort to dramatically limit abortion access in America. West Virginia and Alabama, two typically red states, are also voting on anti-abortion initiatives.

But pro-abortion advocates are paying special attention to Oregon, often considered the north star of reproductive rights. They worry that if abortion rights are stripped in what’s often considered a liberal utopia, what will come next? Anti-abortion groups could use this as a rallying cry to go after other states and ultimately reopen the debate on Roe vs. Wade, allowing the now Conservative-leaning Supreme Court to overturn a law that’s stood since 1973.  

Oregon is one of just 16 states that funds medically necessary abortions through Medicaid, and one of only seven states to fund all abortions, including elective, through Medicaid.

“People everywhere need to be paying attention to this,” said Grayson Dempsey, the executive director at NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon. “In this world, with (Justice Brett) Kavanaugh on the (Supreme) Court, we need a state where we continue to hold the line on abortion care, or anti-abortion extremists are going to think they can make inroads anywhere.”

Abortion restrictions in 33 states

Three months after her abortion, with her marriage officially over, Chambers began her career as a social worker, a move she said would have been impossible if she’d had a third child. She became financially independent and got off Medicaid for the first time in her life.

Chambers was surprised by the physical and emotional pain of abortion – yes, she said, she was sad about ending her pregnancy and she felt guilt that she did not feel love or connection to the child inside of her. But she is adamant that those feelings do not mean she made the wrong decision.

Her experience parallels that of her peers: A 2015 study showed that most women who have abortions do not regret them. 

She felt “disappointed with myself,” for getting pregnant, as she had been a loyal birth control user and advocate for years. She was raised in a pro-abortion household, too, but admits she was often guilty of reciting a line she’s heard many of her friends repeat: “Of course I support a woman’s right to choose – it’s just that I would never choose that.”

Chambers grimaced when thinking back to that philosophy.

“It’s easy to say that,” she said, “until you’re staring at yourself in the mirror, realizing you don’t want to be pregnant.”

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