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Oregon Continues to Advocate for the Vulnerable during COVID-19
Jessica Stanton, J.D. | 05 May 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified our understanding of just how globalized public policy has become. It has revealed how quickly policy can change, and it has unearthed yet another aspect of our responsibility to protect the vulnerable.
Oregon is led by a Governor and legislative majorities who support abortion rights and assisted suicide. During the COVID-19 crisis, Oregon Right to Life (ORTL), is working with pro-life legislators to put pressure on state officials to close abortion facilities and bring awareness of plans to withhold care from the elderly and disabled. Here is an overview of Oregon’s pro-life initiatives during the COVID-19 crisis.
Closing Abortion Facilities in Oregon during COVID-19.
Under the current public health crisis, abortion supporters assert that "abortion is essential healthcare and should not be restricted no matter the cost." On March 19, Oregon's Governor, Kate Brown, like other states, ordered all elective non-urgent health care procedures to be postponed to conserve hospital beds and personal protective equipment (PPE). Health care organizations and facilities across the state all postponed procedures and gave over their PPE. Abortion facilities in Oregon did not. The state’s Attorney General stated on March 26 that abortion services are exempt from the order, and Oregon would never budge on providing abortions.
Inspired by several states including, Alaska, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia, that all postponed abortion procedures under various orders to stop all elective procedures, ORTL used its resources to aid pro-life advocates across the nation. Pro-life advocates in every state can contact their governor’s through ORTL’s advocacy tool and ask for abortion facilities to close. Providing this tool for other states to use is an opportunity for Oregon to coalesce with other advocates across the nation and join in the collective voice to protect the unborn during this crisis.
Additionally, twenty-two Oregon pro-life legislators sent a letter to the Oregon Health Authority and Governor Brown requesting their assistance to close abortion facilities during the COVID-19 crisis. Abortion clinics in Oregon need to close during the COVID-19 crisis because nearly 4% of all women who receive an abortion in Oregon have complications. The complications arise from both medication and surgical abortions. A complication from an abortion procedure could put the women at severe risk and take up needed hospital beds for COVID-19 patients. The abortion facilities performing surgical abortions are all in Oregon counties that have the most confirmed positive coronavirus cases and deaths. While other non-essential and elective procedures are on hold, abortion facilities blatantly disregard the collective efforts in Oregon to slow and stop the spread of COVID-19.
Undeterred by the pro-abortion supermajority in Oregon, pro-life advocates continue to request that the Governor close abortion facilities. As of May 1, non-essential and elective procedures can resume in Oregon so long as these clinics adhere to a set of guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Abortion clinics in Oregon are wholly unregulated, and these new guidelines during the pandemic will be an opportunity to shed light on the abortion industry and their lack of participation with the collective should they ignore the guidelines.
Preventing Health Care from being Rationed during COVID-19.
As the US began to see an increase in deaths and positive coronavirus cases, the concerns over our healthcare system capacity seemed to be confirmed by international developments. Italy's health care system was woefully unprepared. Their health care doctors and experts developed and applied a set of guidelines to help determine how to ration care. The guidelines included a lower standard of care and a set of factors, including age and chance of survival rate. Pro-life advocates aware of what was happening overseas stated their concern to the US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights (HHS OCR) to prevent rationing care. 
ORTL joined in the effort to bring awareness and is currently working on a letter to send to state health officials requesting the HHS OCR guidelines be used in all future COVID-19 health care policies. No one should be denied care because of an underlying health care condition, age, or disability. Lowering standards of care or allocating resources based on a set of criteria is discriminatory and undermines the inherent value of human life.
Currently, plans are being discussed by experts at the Oregon Health Authority and at Oregon Health and Science University, to ration care should Oregon become overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.
These health experts are referencing criteria they developed in 2018, Oregon Crisis Care Guidance (OCCG). According to the OCCG, there are several factors to determine what level of care a person receives. Some of those factors include whether the person has an underlying condition such as cancer, heart failure, liver disease, neurological disease, or a condition with a life expectancy of less than six to twelve months to receive less aggressive care. Another factor is whether to give CPR or stop it if there is a very low likelihood of patient survival. The OCCG also recommends that patients who are on hospice or have a stated desire, possible through an advance directive, not to receive intensive care but less aggressive care. Other factors for determining what level of care a patient should receive during a public health crisis include the likelihood of death, the likelihood of survival, the scope of resources needed to provide medical care, and the underlying medical conditions.
If Oregon has a document for medical professionals to refer to for rationing care in times of crisis, other states likely have one as well. It is pertinent for pro-life advocates during the COVID-19 pandemic to research crisis guidelines and bring awareness that health care should not be rationed because of age, disability, or underlying health condition.
 According to the Planned Parenthood website, Bend, Eugene-Springfield, and NE Portland are offering surgical abortions. Lovejoy in Portland is providing surgical abortions. In Deschutes County, 25 confirmed COVID-19 cases. Twelve confirmed COVID-19 cases in Lane County. One hundred confirmed COVID-19 cases in Multnomah County. All three counties are among the top 10 highest confirmed COVID-19 counties in Oregon. https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/6c96b225a8424992b56e59400a30dab4
Jessica Stanton, J.D., Lobbyist for Oregon Right to Life & 2020 Society of St. Sebastian Fellow