SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon lawmakers have advanced a sweeping bill intended to protect abortion and gender-affirming health care for transgender people by boosting legal safeguards and expanding access and insurance coverage.
Democratic representatives on Monday night passed the bill along party lines in a House floor vote that stretched for roughly six hours after Republicans sought to stall it.
Citing concerns about the wide-ranging scope of the bill — which addresses topics from minors’ access to abortion to emergency contraception at university student health centers to insurance coverage for gender-affirming care procedures — Republicans sought through various motions to send the bill back to different policy committees, delay the vote until next month and postpone it indefinitely.
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Republican state Rep. Lily Morgan was among those who spoke in favor of its postponement.
“It would give us the time to address some of the concerns brought up today, and if nothing else have an honest discussion around them,” she said.
Republicans said they were frustrated that the bill, which has sparked fervent debate, only received one public hearing. The emotionally charged hearing at the state Capitol in Salem in March lasted several hours with dozens of people testifying in person. Hundreds more submitted written testimony both for and against it.
Democrats said the bill has been drafted over the past year and came out of a work group that was convened after the Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade decision.
“This bill is the result of a year-long collaboration between dozens of legislators and stakeholders including patients, providers, advocates, community groups, and legal experts. It protects, strengthens, and expands safe, equitable access to reproductive and gender-affirming care—no matter who you are, where you live, or how much money you make,” Democratic Speaker Dan Rayfield said in a news release.
The bill would implement a wide-ranging series of measures, including shielding patients and providers from lawsuits originating in states where abortion and gender-affirming care are now restricted. It would also require public universities and community colleges with student health centers to provide emergency contraception and medication abortion.
Additionally, it would expand insurance coverage for gender-affirming health care by barring insurers from defining as cosmetic procedures that are prescribed as medically necessary for treating gender dysphoria, among other things.
The parts of the proposal that have proved to be the most contentious have to do with minors. Under the legislation, doctors would be allowed to provide an abortion to anyone regardless of age, and it would bar them in certain cases from disclosing that to parents.
Democratic lawmakers have said such scenarios are rare. But critics said this could exclude parents from key aspects of their child’s health care.
Abortion remains legal at all stages of pregnancy in Oregon, and state law already bars health insurance companies from discriminating on the basis of gender identity. But Democratic lawmakers said the measure was needed to push back against the flurry of anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ+ measures in conservative legislatures that is compelling people to travel to states like Oregon in search of such care.
The bill now heads to the state Senate, led also by Democrats, where it could be voted on as early as this week.