While abortion services remain available in Oregon, many legal questions have centered on the issue since the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. A panel of experts discussed those issues at last month’s 2022 Oregon State of Reform Health Policy Conference.
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Bruce Howell, Program Director of Willamette University’s Certificate in Health Law Program, said some states have laws in place that might force abortion seekers to seek services in states that have maintained abortion protections, like Oregon. Texas’s Senate Bill 8, for instance, rewards citizens with a cash “bounty” if they succeed in suing anyone who has helped a resident get an illegal abortion.
“We’re looking at bounty laws in Texas,” Howell said. “Bounty laws are, you and I can turn people in for aiding and abetting, and we get money. The law [has] not been tested yet, but it is there.”
Another concern is interstate travel, Howell said.
“We’re worried about interstate travel,” Howell said. “It’s not a very big worry because the constitution allows travel between states. But the interesting question is, if a person from Texas comes here to Oregon to have an abortion, and that person goes back home and he or she is a citizen of Texas, can he or she be prosecuted?”
An Do, Executive Director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon, noted the importance of the Oregon Department of Justice’s (DOJ) willingness to defend abortion access by filing lawsuits.
“Right now, the DOJ is suing using the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act to ensure [access to] people whose lives are at risk, whose health is at risk,” Do said. “[The Roe decision] has wrought chaos when it comes to ectopic pregnancies, miscarriage management, and just the chaos and confusion that has been sown around providers just trying to provide essential healthcare to patients.
And the fear, even here in Oregon, of criminalization or civil prosecution. Which is why we rely on [attorneys general] and governors to step up to make sure that we are protecting the folks here in our state who are providing care and trying to protect the folks getting care in our state to the greatest extent possible.”
Do said it is important to remain vigilant about abortion access and reproductive rights since Oregon hasn’t always been as progressive on women’s rights as it is now. She cited the state legislature’s passage of a bill in 1917 that created the Oregon State Board of Eugenics, which forced the sterilization of more than 2,600 Oregon residents from 1917 to 1981.
“The Oregon State Eugenics Board targeted folks who were convicted of sodomy laws, who were inmates in prisons, who were in mental institutions,” Do said. “So we have a long history of the states sort of dictating who gets to have children, who does not get to have children, and a history of the courts upholding that.”