Looking Back: Oregon’s Landmark Reproductive Health Equity Act

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Celebrating the Two Year Anniversary of HB 3391

SALEM — On this day two years ago, Governor Kate Brown signed into law Oregon’s Reproductive Health Equity Act — a first of its kind bill that expanded access to reproductive health services for all Oregonians. A culmination of decades of work at the hands of lawmakers and community organizations, House Bill 3391 established immediate protections for women’s right to choose, and cemented Oregon as a leader in reproductive health care access.

At a time when this fundamental right to access reproductive health care is being challenged across the nation, Oregon’s legislation continues to help people across the state lead healthy and productive lives. 

People like Hanna Neuschwander, who was forced to make the impossible decision to have an abortion after a 20-week scan revealed that her daughter, River, was missing critical structures of her brain. While the decision was tough, Hannah emphasized the quality of care she received. 

“My doctors at Kaiser were amazing. My care was caring—everyone treated us with deep kindness and compassion, “ she says. However, Hanna notes that mothers and families in other states may not have the same support she had due to laws restricting access to reproductive health care, or a lack of accessible services. Many women in other states may have to take finances or safety into consideration when faced with a similar situation, instead of focusing on their health and wellbeing. 

“Two weeks after I returned to my home—two weeks I spent cradling this blanket and crying my heart out—I received a bill in the mail for $2,123 dollars. That’s more than a month’s salary for someone making minimum wage in this state. I could afford to pay this bill; many (many, many) women in Oregon could not,” she says.

Governor Kate Brown signs HB 3391 into law surrounded by legislators and key officials.

With the Reproductive Health Equity Act, Oregon became the first state to require insurance companies to cover the full spectrum of reproductive health care for men and women, including expanded postpartum care coverage, counseling for domestic abuse and tobacco use, breastfeeding support, and FDA-approved contraception. HB 3391 also prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity in reproductive health coverage, ensuring all Oregonians can access life-saving preventive care, such as cancer screenings.

Across the nation, states have imposed limitations on a woman’s right to choose and have restricted access to reproductive health services. So-called “heartbeat” bills have passed in Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, and Ohio. Other states have gone further, such as in Alabama where a law was recently passed banning abortion in nearly all cases, including rape. These laws work to oppress women’s freedoms systematically and limit their personhood by restricting access to the services they need. 

States are not the only ones who are working to restrict reproductive health. There have been increased moves at the federal level. Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), members of Congress have threatened, and actively worked, to repeal the legislation. Of the many protections granted by the ACA, the law expanded protections for reproductive health care and services. Those critical services are in jeopardy if the ACA is repealed. There is also increased sentiment regarding overturning Roe v. Wade. And the Trump administration has made sweeping changes to Title X, reducing access to reproductive health services for low-income women across the country.

The landmark Reproductive Health Equity Act cemented federal protection in Oregon law and sent a signal that in the face of uncertainty on a national level, states must act to protect the rights and protections of its people. 

“To lead productive and thriving lives, Oregonians must have the ability to control their bodies and make informed decisions about their health,” said Governor Brown at the bill signing two years ago. “I am proud to sign legislation that expands access to basic reproductive health services for all Oregonians — regardless of where they live, where they come from, or how they identify as a person”

About Author

Efren Zamudio is a Strategic Communications Summer Fellow in the Office of Governor Kate Brown.

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