Portland City Council voted to create a fund for people who are accessing abortion and reproductive healthcare in Oregon, replacing their original plan to end all trade and city business travel to and from Texas, in response to Texas’s new abortion regulations and laws, on Wednesday, September 1.
Texas passed a law (Senate Bill 8) on September 1 that bans abortions after roughly six weeks of pregnancy. The six-week marker was decided based on the typical pregnancy timeline of when a fetal heartbeat can be detected. In many circumstances, a person may not know that they are pregnant before the six-week period is over, making their access to a safe, legal abortion nearly impossible in the state of Texas. In addition to making the process of accessing a safe abortion in the state of Texas nearly impossible, Texas Senate Bill 8 encourages private citizens to report anyone that is providing or aiding abortions, even if they don’t have any evidence. Texas promises its citizens at least $10,000 as a reward for successful lawsuits against abortion providers.
The new ban in Texas has spurred national debates as to whether or not the law is a violation of Roe v. Wade (1973), a U.S. Supreme Court case that led to the ruling of the Constitution’s ability to protect a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion without excessive government restriction. The Supreme Court voted against blocking the new law in a 5-4 vote.
The office of Portland mayor, Ted Wheeler, released a statement on September 3, urging other city, state, and national officials to take a stance against the new law. They also announced that they would consider an emergency resolution that would ban all city business-related travel, and trade between Portland and Texas until the “unconstitutional ban on abortion is withdrawn or overturned in court.” The proposed resolution was originally scheduled to have a vote on September 8 but was rescheduled for the 15th.
After a Portland legal counsel evaluation of the proposed resolution and more consideration among City Council members, the resolution was dismissed. The resolution was replaced with a new ordinance that allocates $200,000 to organizations and agencies that deliver care related to abortion and reproductive health in Oregon. The new ordinance passed with a vote of 4-1. Portland City Commissioner Mingus Mapps was the sole dissenting vote.
“I am pro-choice and pro reproductive rights and abhor the Texas law,” said Commissioner Mapps. “I opposed sending Portlanders’ money to Texas. I believe the entire process was as sloppy and reactive as it gets with no public process—terrible policymaking in a time of historic local crises,” said Mapps.
Commissioner Mapps mentioned local issues that he felt may be a better recipient of $200,000, including houselessness reform, gun and domestic violence, reducing traffic fatalities, 911 call times, mental and behavioral health resources, climate change solutions, pandemic relief, and youth programs.
In addition to worries about sending Portland taxpayers’ money to help support Texans, Mapps wrote that “the City of Portland doesn’t do health care; that is the realm of Multnomah County and the Oregon Health Authority.”
Mapps added, “Unfortunately, Texas isn’t the end. Other states, especially in the South, will copycat a legislative gambit that circumvents judicial review.” Commissioner Mapps explained that his contribution to the ordinance was the portion that advocates for a federal legislative fix and the preparation of an amicus brief, or a compilation of relevant information provided to the court. Ultimately, however, his belief that there were better uses for the money led to his “no” vote.
“[Senate Bill 8] allows Texas to outlaw an estimated 85 [percent] of all abortion procedures in the state,” read the statement from Wheeler’s office. With an estimated 85 percent of all abortion procedures no longer being legal, it is expected that Oregon will get an increase of Texans traveling through Portland with the purpose of seeking abortion treatments. The new ordinance is aimed to assist these Texans in the process of accessing these medical procedures and to support providers with the resources to provide these procedures. City Council has yet to decide who exactly will be the beneficiaries of this fund.
The statement from Wheeler’s office concluded, “Portland City Council stands with the people who may one day face difficult decisions about pregnancy, and we respect their right to make the best decision for themselves.”
With this new fund, Portland City Council hopes to mitigate the effects for Texans who may no longer have the ability to access reproductive freedom and to take a stance to protect reproductive rights and freedoms.