Local public health services are not affected by a recent federal law change that bars providers from telling pregnant women about abortion options.
That’s because Oregon declined to accept the federal dollars that would have meant abiding by the new rule. Instead, Oregon has backfilled the loss of federal money, which amounted to $3 million in fiscal year 2018.
The North Central Public Health District gets about $24,000 of that money, said Teri Thalhofer, executive director of the health district.
Dr. Miriam McDonell, health officer for the health district, said, “We really want people to know they have access to the same services we’ve always had here at NCPHD, and we’re committed to continuing to give high quality and accurate reproductive health service care.”
McDonell said, “Whenever somebody presents with a pregnancy, we present them with all the information they would like. Some people immediately indicate it’s a pregnancy they would desire and we set them up with services.”
She said the health district doesn’t keep data on how many women inquire about abortions.
She said lots of times women already know they’re pregnant when they come to be tested, “Thanks to Dollar Store pregnancy tests, which are pretty darn accurate.”
But certain types of insurance enrollment can require proof of pregnancy from a clinic in order to get coverage of the pregnancy, she said.
The affected federal Title X funding is a federal grant program dedicated to providing individuals with comprehensive family planning and related preventive health services, McDonell said.
Oregon is one of 17 states that uses its own funds to extend abortion coverage to low-income residents, since a 1976 federal law called the Hyde Amendment has prevented the use of federal funds for that purpose.
The change to the Title X federal grant rules was announced last March. The next day, Oregon was the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against the change. The suit was filed in federal district court in Eugene and was brought by 19 states and Planned Parenthood.
A federal judge in April agreed that the new change was illegal and should not take effect, but in June a three-judge panel from the U.S. Ninth District Court reversed that decision. Now, the 19 states are asking that the matter go before the full 13-judge panel of the Ninth District Court.
The new federal law prohibits Title X providers from offering pregnant patients what’s called “non-directive counseling on all legal options relating to pregnancy,” McDonell said.
It specifically “restricts counseling as an indirect means of encouraging or promoting abortion as a method of family planning.”
Under the new law, “a provider could decline to provide any information about termination even if that is the only information the patient requests,” McDonell said.
The only thing a provider may do is provide a comprehensive list of providers without indicating which of them provides abortions, she said.