As you work through the list of statewide measures on your Nov. 6 ballot, you may notice a trend: As you go down the ballot, the amount of emotion involved in each measure increases.
Measure 102 is a relatively bloodless measure involving affordable housing. Measures 103 and 104 are proposed constitutional amendments that involve taxation. Measure 105 would repeal the state's sanctuary law status, a hot-button issue involving immigration policy. (See the information box for a recap of our editorial positions on each of those ballot measures.)
Then, at the end of the list, you come to Measure 106, which involves abortion — for generations, a divisive and emotional topic in American politics.
Measure 106 would amend the Oregon constitution to prohibit publicly funded health care programs, including the Oregon Health Plan (what we call Medicaid in this state) and the Public Employees Benefit Board, from covering abortions.
The measure creates two exceptions: One comes into play when a licensed physician determines that an abortion is medically necessary because the pregnancy places the woman's life in danger. The second exception involves situations in which federal law requires a state to provide funding for certain abortions.
Proponents of Measure 106 have cleverly cast their argument in terms of tax dollars spent on abortion, a shrewd strategy that allows them to narrow the terms of debate. In fact, one of the arguments made by proponents is that 106 will save taxpayers millions of dollars that are being used to pay for abortions. They cite figures from the Oregon Health Authority suggesting that the Oregon Health Plan spends somewhere in the vicinity of $2 million each year to pay for abortions for low-income women.
But, in the final analysis, this measure isn't really about saving taxpayers' dollars. Assume for a moment that Measure 106 passes, and most of those low-income women, with no other options, decide to carry their pregnancies to term. The costs of adding those those additional children on the Oregon Health Plan soon would dwarf the amount of taxpayer money paying for abortions.
No, the not-so-hidden agenda of Measure 106 is to find a way to limit the number of abortions in Oregon. In that regard, the timing of the measure is curious: Abortion rates in Oregon and across the nation have been declining for years.
And the downside of Measure 106 is deep: It would create a disproportionate financial hardship for low-income women and would limit their access to a medical procedure that is currently legal in the United States.
It also would interfere with decisions that should not be the province of the state: The deeply personal decision to abort a pregnancy is a matter for the women involved, their loved ones and their medical providers, and no one else.
Oregon voters have recognized that and have rebuffed previous efforts to restrict abortion rights in the state. Recent polls suggest that Measure 106 could be headed the way of those earlier efforts.
That's as it should be. Oregon voters should, once again, make it clear that the state has no business interfering with these personal medical decisions. We recommend a "No" vote on Measure 106. (mm)