By JOHN FORTMEYER
CORVALLIS — To better confront expected legal challenges, an additional two years is now needed to get an initiative on the Oregon ballot to end state funding of abortion, according to initiative sponsors.
Although Corvallis-based Oregon Life United had initially sought a statewide vote this November on the issue, legal challenges from several organizations have forced a change in the initiative’s timetable, Jeff Jimerson, director of Oregon Life United, announced last month.
“Planned Parenthood and other pro-abortion organizations have hired multiple lawyers to oppose our efforts to pass Oregon’s first pro-life law,” said Jimerson. “Now, after several months of waiting, the Oregon Supreme Court has sided with their demands for changes to our petition’s ballot title — resulting in confusing wording and additional delays to the start of our 2016 petition drive. The court’s decision unfortunately means there will not be enough time to gather signatures to stop taxpayer-funded abortion this year.”
To qualify for this November’s ballot, the proposed initiative would have needed 117,578 valid voter signatures by a July deadline.
But Jimerson emphasized that the two-year delay in no way means that Oregon Life United is giving up. “I’m optimistic we’ll be able to use the months ahead to build a stronger coalition for putting this on the ballot,” he said.
He said Oregon Life United’s next steps involve:
•hiring a “good, pro-life attorney” to help improve the initiative text;
•collecting sponsor signatures on two to three versions of the text in an attempt to get the best possible ballot title;
•a presence at county fairs this summer, building awareness and gathering the first 1,000 sponsor signatures for each petition version;
•coalition building with various church denominations.
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. The current efforts by Oregon Life United mark the third time since 2012 that Jimerson has spearheaded statewide initiative efforts — largely by concerned Christians — to halt state funding of abortion. 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.
Last January, the proposed ballot title for the latest initiative, written by the Oregon attorney general, received a variety of legal challenges from two Planned Parenthood affiliates in the state as well as the American Civil Liber-ties Union of Oregon, NARAL Pro-Choice Ore-gon, and other pro-abortion organizations.
In a statement after Oregon Life United’s an-nouncement last month, NARAL Pro-Choice Ore-gon Executive Director Michele Stranger Hunter termed the initiative “a heartless attempt to take away some women’’ personal decision-making and push abortion out of reach in Oregon — falling hardest on those who already face significant barriers to getting health care.”
Hunted said NARAL was glad the court stopped this year’s initiative try but knows the pro-life community will persist.
“We know we must be vigilant to protect reproductive health care in Oregon,” said Hunter.
Jimerson expressed si-milar resolve.
“We will continue to stand up for Oregon taxpayers, for the pre-born children who are losing their lives to taxpayer-funded abortion, and for vulnerable pregnant women who are being told abortion is their only choice,” he said.