Fueled by the proposed federal health care mandate, a group of Oregonians is seeking a vote to end public funding for abortion.
A grassroots coalition needs just more than 116,000 valid signatures by July to qualify Initiative 25 for the November ballot. The Archdiocese of Portland supports the effort.
The proposed amendment to the Oregon Constitution says "No public funds shall be used to pay for any abortion, except to save the life of the mother or as may be required by federal law." It's similar to amendments in the Arkansas and Rhode Island state constitutions.
Local supporters like Signa Johnston of St. Clare Parish have been inspired to act since the Obama administration sought to compel religious employers to fund workers' coverage of sterilization and birth control, including some drugs that cause abortions.
When the President later said insurance companies would pay the cost, that failed to assuage concerns. Pro-lifers said the cost of the controversial coverage will be passed through to employers. Also, self-insured organizations would still be liable.
The issue has become a major argument over religious freedom.
Johnston has always been pro-life, but has never before been an activist.
"Then the HHS mandate came. It's devastating if this stands," she says. A retired health care worker, Johnston says she fears for the conscience rights of those in the field now. Now, she's attending rallies, making calls and urging people to sign the petition.
She says Initiative 25 will give voters a choice: do you want taxpayer dollars to fund abortion?
Initiative 25 is sponsored by the Oregon 2012 Petition Committee, based in Corvallis.There are three chief petitioners: Jeff Jimerson of Albany, Lee Edward of Corvallis and former State Senator Marylin Shannon of Salem. The initiative has no paid petition circulators.
The federal government now allows individual states to decide how to spend money when it comes to abortions. Organizers say they added the words "or as may be required by federal law" to ease notions that the idea is too extreme or an attempt to forestall a potential federal requirement.
To review the petition and sign it, go to oregon2012.org.