By State Representative Rob Nosse
By the time you read this, a critical moment will have passed in the Oregon Legislature and in my Behavioral Health and Health Care committee. We will have had a public hearing on HB 2002, a bill that seeks to affirm in law the right to all manner of reproductive health care in our state, including the right to abortion and the right to gender affirming care for those who need it.
I don’t have to explain to most of you that we are at a critical moment as a nation when it comes to healthcare rights and access. Reproductive rights have been under attack in our country for many years, but many of us, especially in Oregon, often put that threat in the back of our minds.
The overturning of Roe v. Wade was a devastating blow to reproductive freedom and the right to choose, especially as variations of bills like the Heartbeat Act in Texas become more common and many other state legislatures seek to impose even more limitations on bodily autonomy.
Simultaneously, transgender people have been facing staggering cruelty and legislation that blocks access to the services they need. Tennessee was the first state this year to draft a bill banning gender-affirming healthcare, and many other states are getting in line to do so as well. This care is essential to transgender people’s well-being and safety. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, transgender survey respondents were nine times more likely to attempt suicide than cisgender people. Meanwhile, we know that mental health improves significantly with access to gender-affirming care.
Though Oregon has a strong history of offering and legally protecting reproductive health care and gender affirming care, we still have a ways to go. We need this bill. 75 percent of Oregon counties do not have an abortion provider. Nearly 75 percent of transgender Oregonians do not live near a provider who has openings within a month to receive services. This can translate to years-long wait lists for life-saving gender affirming care. We know that 47 percent of Americans are not prepared to cover an unexpected $500 expense, the average cost of a medication abortion without insurance. All of Oregon’s state regulated health plans still exclude medically necessary gender affirming care procedures.
Here in Oregon, we value choice. Everyone has the right to choose when it comes to their reproductive health and they have the right to choose to seek gender-affirming care.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this column, the Behavioral Health and Health Care Committee that I chair held an informational session and public hearing on House Bill 2002 on March 20. This bill is a reproductive healthcare package brought forward by the Democratic caucus. I am proud to be a sponsor. This bill covers a lot, regarding abortion accessibility and the right to insurance coverage of gender-affirming healthcare.
HB 2002 also guarantees that no Oregonian will ever be prosecuted for seeking or having an abortion. No one should be criminalized for the choices they make about their own body.
The bill protects providers from prosecution, too. Our healthcare providers already work so hard. The last thing they should worry about is being criminalized because they provided abortion services to a resident of a different state where the procedure is no longer permitted. The bill protects providers’ confidentiality and privacy as well as their physical safety. It also makes interfering with a healthcare facility a crime, so that no one can legally put health care providers’ and patients’ lives at risk.
HB 2002 also expands access to the full spectrum of reproductive healthcare in rural Oregon through mobile health clinics. These mobile clinics allow providers to reach populations that might not otherwise have access to care. Additionally, the package funds two rural communities with low health care access from the Office of Rural Health.
It also allows the Oregon Health Authority to collaborate with the Higher Education Coordinating Commission so that students attending public universities and community colleges will have access to emergency contraception and medication through their student health centers.
Affordability is a big factor in patients seeking gender-affirming care. HB 2002 would close gaps in insurance coverage for gender-affirming care, including facial hair-removal and facial surgery. Simply put, this legislation codifies every Oregonian’s right to the full spectrum of reproductive care and protects every patient seeking abortion services or gender affirming care.
Prior to publication of this column, this bill had a public hearing. It was great to hear from everyone from around the state. I was moved by the personal stories we heard and was glad to see so much support for this important legislation. The bill will be sent to another committee for funding and then to the floor of the House and Senate for a final vote in the spring. Stay tuned, as its passage will be big news event. I am confident it will pass.