The F-Word: A Healthcare Story to Celebrate: Oregon's Reproductive Equity Act

What does reproductive justice look like in action? It looks like bravery; the bravery required to stand up for everyone not just a few; for the whole, not a fraction of the population. People who stand for justice, not the just-us approach to something like reproductive rights, often meet resistance. “We need to move incrementally,” say the incrementalists, “let’s get the easy wins first, then the rest.”


So history advances, we’re often told, piece by piece.  Except usually what happens is that we get piecemeal progress. Not quite enough to get us what we wanted, but just enough to serve a portion of us, for a bit.

Attacks usually follow, and those who’ve won piecemeal progress find out their movement is in pieces. Surprise surprise, they’re not on great terms with the ones they left behind and those they left at the back of the priority line, aren’t so excited about being at their back.

All of which is why it’s important to notice and celebrate when progressives pull together to go further. In Oregon they did just that last week, when state legislators passed the Reproductive Equity Act on a 17-13 vote.

Oregon’s new law closes a lot of the loopholes left in the Affordable Care Act and ensures that all Oregonians receive the full range of preventative reproductive health care including abortion, vasectomy and postpartum care at zero out of pocket costs. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, the measure also preserves, in Oregon, a woman’s right to abortion. It extends that care to undocumented people, and prohibits discrimination against people like Kaden Merrill, a 20 something trans-man who’s been denied treatment for the pre-cancerous cells his doctor found after a Papp smear.  

“We don’t have a category for you,” one of his insurers told Kaden. “Why would a male have a uterus?” Said another. This sort of lack of curiosity and ignorance among health insurers is a threat to everyone’s health.

The Reproductive Equity Act was long in coming. Its authors  couldn’t have predicted a federal Trump/Pence administration that right now would be gunning for the ACA itself.

While the GOP anti Obama care plan is defeated for now, that’s still what we’re facing. And in Oregon , the movement health care activists have built is big and broad, not piecemeal. One of the coalitions involved calls itself, We are Brave, and they are.

They’re also smart. The health care that’s won for the most marginalized will cover the others. Call it trickle up. Call it reproductive justice. To find out more, go to the website of the Western States Center.

Now if only we’d started with a push for single payer. No piecemeal movement, no movements in pieces. I’m sure by now you get my point.

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