By JOHN FORTMEYER
CORVALLIS — Energized largely by concerned Christians, a third round of petitioning since 2012 in hopes of ultimately halting state funding of abortion officially began last month.
What makes this different from the 2012 and 2014 efforts is the amount of time leading up to the latest drive. Jeff Jimerson of Corvallis, director of sponsoring group Oregon Life United, said the groundwork has been laid much earlier to secure the 117,000 signatures of registered Oregon voters to qualify an initiative for the state’s November 2018 ballot.
“This time around, because we’ve started the process much earlier than before, our opponents won’t be able to run out the clock with court delays,” Jimerson wrote last fall in a letter to initiative supporters.
Both the 2012 and 2014 initiative drives failed to secure the required voter signatures, although the 2014 effort saw an increase to nearly 100,000 signatures secured by 2,800 volunteers.
Oregon Life United had initially hoped to see a statewide vote last November on the issue, but legal challenges from Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon and the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon kept the group from gathering signatures. However, in February the final legal hurdle was cleared and the newest pro-life petition drive was launched on Tax Day, Tuesday April 18.
Jimerson is quick to point out that Oregon is the only state that currently has no restrictions regarding abortion. According to records obtained by the state government, more than 45,000 abortions have been funded with more than $20 million in state money during the past 12 fiscal years.
Churches are seen by Oregon Life United as playing a key role in the campaign. In a letter sent to churches statewide, Cheri Dunbar of the group asked pro-life pastors to give their congregations a chance to sign the petition for two or more weekends this month and next. She also suggesed that an announcement made during more than one service will help facilitate efficient signature gathering before and after the services.
“We know this can be a sensitive topic to discuss from the pulpit,” Dunbar wrote. “However, it is on our hearts that pastors and leaders might include this initiative as part of a conversation that leads to healing for those with abortion in their past and protection for those who may be faced with this decision in the future. We believe the place for hearing the truth about the Creator’s love and design for each child, from the moment of conception, is in our churches.”
She and Jimerson noted that dozens of pastors and ministry leaders representing a variety of denominations support the measure and are encouraging church families to do so as well. A list of endorsements and resources for churches can be found at the petition drive web site, www.stopthefunding.org/sign-on-sunday/.
Churches interested in getting involved can phone 541-286-3039, ext. 1 or email Dunbar at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jimerson said the campaign hopefully will awaken the Christian community to the reality of abortion in Oregon.
“Whether it’s at our churches, or in our neighborhoods, or at a public prayer rally, whenever we’re out gathering signatures we also look for opportunities to inform and equip voters with the truth,” he wrote. “We find that oftentimes people know abortion is wrong, but they may not know what they can do to help.” He said hundreds of volunteers will be needed for the petition campaign.
On its website, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon identified the Oregon Life United efforts as “One of 10 Outrageous Attacks on Oregon Women” during the past year.
“Extremists have already introduced a 2018 ballot measure that would amend the Oregon Constitution to ban abortion access for low-income women,” the web site stated.
Last year, NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon Executive Director Michele Stranger Hunter termed the initiative efforts “a heartless attempt to take away some women’s personal decision-making and push abortion out of reach in Oregon — falling hardest on those who already face significant barriers to getting health care.”
But Jimerson sees the motives behind the initiative campaign much differently:
“Let’s never forget that pro-life work … is in fact a ministry to those who are being harmed by abortion. This is not a political issue. Our motivation is love, and nothing else.”
Details on the petition efforts can be found at www.oregonlifeunited.org