By JOHN FORTMEYER
An effort — largely energized by concerned Christians — to let Oregon voters have their say on state funding of abortion fell short last year, but those behind it are wasting no time at trying again.
On Jan. 1, a new citizen initiative to stop taxpayer funding for abortion was officially announced, seeking a statewide vote in November 2014. A report last month stated that a 10-year high of 4,191 abortions are now funded by Oregon taxpayers each year under the Oregon Health Plan.
At the end of January, 1,849 sponsor signatures from Oregon voters were delivered to the secretary of state’s office in Salem — a required first step before additional signatures can be collected. By mid-February, those initial signatures were verified by that office.
Ultimately, 116,284 valid signatures would be needed to qualify as a ballot measure, but the campaign will aim for 150,000 so as to have a buffer against any signatures that might be determined invalid.
“Last year we gathered more than 70,000 signatures in a very short period of time, using only volunteers,” said Jeff Jimerson of Albany, who headed up the 2012 effort and is doing the same for the Oregon2014 Petition Committee. “This year we’ve got more time and much more awareness.”
Co-chief petitioners are Lee Edward of Corvallis and former state Sen. Marylin Shannon of Salem. Shannon joined Jimerson Jan. 29 in delivering the initial sponsor signatures to the secretary of state.
The initiative now moves to the state attorney general’s office to begin the process of writing the ballot title. Once the ballot title is finalized, signature gathering can begin in full force. However, whether that happens within weeks or months depends on whether the campaign’s ballot title is appealed to the Oregon Supreme Court.
“What ultimately happens now with the ballot title is out of our hands, but we know who holds the universe in His,” said Jimerson.
Campaign supporters statewide are being invited by e-mail to take part in a seven-week prayer effort regarding the ballot title, with telephone conference calls led by Peter Carlson held biweekly. Carlson is prayer coordinator for the campaign.
Jimerson said supporters of the new initiative have been wondering if those efforts will be voided by the new changes in federal health care law.
“The answer is no,” he said. “Obamacare doesn’t force states to fund abortions with taxpayer money, and yes, our citizen initiative is definitely worth doing.”
He noted that Section 1303 of the new federal law specifically will allow the state to remove abortion from the list of services covered under the Oregon Health Plan.
“If we give up, or do nothing, Oregon taxpayers who are opposed to funding abortions will be forced to continue participating in 11 abortions every day,” said Jimerson. “So our mission remains. Amending the Oregon State Constitution is the only way we can give taxpayers freedom from funding abortions.”
For more information on the initiative, go to www.Oregon 2014.org.
Disclosure to readers: John Fortmeyer, publisher of Christian News Northwest, is an unpaid advisor to the Oregon 2014 Petition Committee.