By JOHN FORTMEYER
SALEM — Two years ago, the dozens of pregnancy resource ministries in Oregon had to do some quick rallying, but succeeded in blocking state legislation they believed would severely hurt their outreach.
Yet the centers fully expected to have to wage the fight again, and that is indeed happening during the current legislative session. This time, a similar proposal, Senate Bill 490, is more likely to pass. “Two years ago, the bill died. It never got any traction,” said Larry Gadbaugh, chief executive officer of Pregnancy Resource Centers of Greater Portland, the state’s largest group of such centers. “But there’s more pressure to get this on the floor this time. The senators I have talked with say that Planned Parenthood is putting significant pressure for this bill to be passed.”
Gadbaugh said the bill would require the centers to post repeatedly the services that they do not provide, particularly that they do not promote or do abortions. This despite the fact that the legislation never requires abortion facilities to disclose what services they don’t offer, such as support for women who give birth..
He said the centers, which are fully privately funded and receive no government money, are also deeply concerned because the bill would place them under the supervision of the new Oregon Health Authority. “It would put us under a government agency, but there is no need because we haven’t violated anything and because we already meet all state and local requirements for carrying out the services that we do,” he said.
Furthermore, the centers fear never-ending legal problems if the bill becomes law, he said.
Gadbaugh said opponents spoke out against the bill at an April 1 hearing attended by about 100 representatives and friends of the centers statewide. He said representatives of Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, were among those speaking in favor of the bill.
Eight days later, with more than 100 opponents of the bill again present, the Senate Health and Human Services Committee held a work session. The bill was eventually moved to the Ways and Means Committee, where it remains alive until the end of the legislative session in June, Gadbaugh said.
If eventually made law, the bill would mark the first time that such regulations are imposed at a state level. Such rules have been enacted at a city level in New York City; Baltimore, Md.,; Austin, Texas and San Francisco, Calif.; but have faced legal challenges on constitutional grounds.
For details on the centers’ battle against the legislation, go to oregonpregnancycenters.org.