2/24/2014 6:05:00 PM Abortion funding ban needs groundswell
A page from Oregon2014.org, site of group seeking to block abortion spending.
A campaign to ban public spending on abortion will need a major surge to get a measure on the 2014 Oregon ballot.
In the past two months, since a new outreach to Catholics, 6,000 new signers have joined, bringing the tally to 36,000. But in anticipation of a July state deadline, the volunteer-run group Oregon 2014 wants 150,000 signatures in place by Mother's Day and sees Catholics as a possible source.
There are more than 417,000 Catholics in Oregon.
"As a woman, a mother and a Catholic, I humbly request your dedicated, passionate support to assist this effort to inform Catholics in the Church of Western Oregon about this initiative and encourage their faithful response," said a December letter to Catholic pastors from Suzanne Bellatti, a young mother of four and a member of St. Rose of Lima Parish who is trying to boost Catholic participation statewide. She was writing to priests as a representative of the Archdiocese of Portland's Office of Life, Justice and Peace.
Some parishes have already held special signing sessions after Sunday Masses. Almost half of abortions in Oregon are funded by state taxpayers through the Oregon Health Plan. That adds up to more than 4,000 abortions each year at a cost of $1.75 million
"Catholics, throughout Oregon, are unwittingly providing thousands of abortions annually to the poor," Bellatti told priests.
Initiative 6 would end taxpayer-funded abortion by amending the Oregon State Constitution. Oregon would join 33 states that already ban public money for most abortions. The group tried to qualify for the 2012 ballot, but fell short, collecting only 70,000 signatures.
Meanwhile, the U.S. House of Representatives on passed the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act Jan. 28.
Approval would "help save lives and will reduce abortions," U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., said Jan. 28. The measure, known as H.R. 7, was approved 227 to 188.
Sponsored by Smith and U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., the act applies the principles of the Hyde amendment to federal health programs, including the Affordable Care Act. Since 1976, the Hyde Amendment has prohibited the use of taxpayer dollars to fund federal subsidies to any part of a benefits package that includes elective abortions.
"Americans have consistently demanded that public funds not pay for abortion," Smith told House members prior to the vote.
President Barack Obama signed an executive order preserving the Hyde amendment restrictions and applying them to the new health insurance exchanges. But Smith said the effort has failed because "many, perhaps most" plans available on health care exchanges include elective abortion.
Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, praised the legislation. "The federal government should not use its funding power to support elective abortion, and should not force taxpayers to subsidize this violence," the cardinal said.
The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act is the second piece of pro-life legislation recently passed by the House. Last year, the House passed the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which prohibits abortion after 20 weeks. Ten states have enacted similar provisions, including two that are being challenged in Georgia and Idaho.
The Senate has not voted on the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. It also is not expected to pass its own version of H.R. 7. In November, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., introduced the Women's Health Protection Act, which would invalidate any state laws that prevent access to abortion.
The Oregon campaign website is oregon2014.org. Organizers, who have petitions for volunteers to circulate, can be reached at (541) 497-1485, firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail at Oregon 2014 Petition Committee, P.O. Box 1620, Corvallis, OR 97339.