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2/8/2013 3:02:00 PM
Church to monitor life issues, social safety net
The Oregon Senate
The Oregon Senate

During the current session of the Oregon Legislature, Catholic leaders in the state will be monitoring dignity of life issues and making sure poor people don't get decimated in the budget battle.

Legislators have proposed three resolutions that, while they don't create law, do voice a desire to keep abortion rights from being limited.

House Concurrent Resolution 1 is designed to thwart waiting periods for abortions and block required ultrasounds. The lead sponsor is Rep. Carolyn Tomei, D-Milwaukie.

House Concurrent Resolution 5 is a preemptive strike against any moves to limit abortion via the definition of rape. House Current Resolution 6 simply "reaffirms woman's right to make reproductive decisions." Those two resolutions were introduced by the House Interim Committee on the Judiciary, a panel now chaired by Rep. Jeff Barker, D-Aloha.  

Msgr. Dennis O'Donovan, vicar general of the archdiocese, says the church will closely monitor the resolutions, but is glad they have no policy consequences. Concurrent resolutions are the same legislative vehicles used to honor distinguished citizens.

Lois Anderson, legislative director for Oregon Right to Life, says her organization wonders what sponsors of the resolutions might be planning. She suspects the goal might be getting vulnerable pro-life politicians on record with a vote.

Anderson and other pro-life leaders are anxiously awaiting a possible bill that would seek to regulate pregnancy aid centers almost out of existence. The idea surface and failed in past years.    

House Joint Resolution 1, by contrast to the concurrent resolutions, would refer the death penalty for a vote of the people. Catholic leaders in Oregon have spoken out for ending capital punishment, which Pope John Paul and Pope Benedict have taught is not necessary given modern means of incarceration.

Another moral issue facing Oregon lawmakers is the budget. Church leaders want to ensure the strength of the safety net for people who are poor.

"One of the big things for this session is money," Msgr. O'Donovan says. "So often, the budget gets balanced on the backs of the vulnerable."

On the Legislature's opening day, Catholic activists were among 500 people who filled the steps of the Oregon Capitol asking for universal healthcare as a universal right. They hope Rep. Mike Dembrow, D-Portland, can succeed in convincing lawmakers to support a bill, even though passage is a long shot.
Last week, Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, urged lawmakers to add $333 million to mental health and mental illness programs. “It’s game-changing time,” said Courtney, a member of St. Joseph Parish. He floated the idea of raising beer and wine taxes to cover some of the cost. Mental health treatment has become a topic of interest since mass shootings at Clackamas Town Center and in a Connecticut school.

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