Have you ever been confused by the description of a ballot measure when trying to vote? We want to help you understand the term "medically necessary" as it relates to voting on abortion-related measures.
A Brief History of Medically Necessary
In 1983 the Oregon Court of Appeals struck down limitations that had been placed on state-funded abortions by the Oregon Health Department. The Court of Appeals took on their own working definition of medically necessary related to abortions:
"[a] surgical procedure required, in a physician's opinion, because specified medical problems may be caused or aggravated by the pregnancy endangering the health of the woman."
The problem is, no clear definition of "health" was given. However, if we consider similar cases at the level of the U.S. Supreme Court from 10 years earlier, a very broad definition of health emerges.
In Roe vs. Wade (1973), the Supreme Court held that states may prohibit abortion after viability of the baby, considered to be the end of the second trimester of pregnancy at that time, “except when it is necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.” However, the Court did not define what it meant by “health.” Yet former Justice Potter Stewart included the following remark in his opinion,
"...I think the question of whether the performance of an abortion is necessary for the preservation of mother's life or health is entrusted under the statute exclusively to those licensed to practice medicine...”
Here, former Justice Stewart is stating it is not within the scope of the court's ability to decide what the "health of the mother" means. Rather, that decision is left "exclusively" to licensed medical practitioners.
Let’s Talk About Health
The following definition of "health" emerged from the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Doe v. Bolton (1973), known as the 'companion case' of Roe vs. Wade. Note this ruling legalized abortion at any time during pregnancy and for any reason; such as age, fear of pain, family size, etc.
"...all factors—physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman's age—relevant to the well-being of the patient. All these factors may relate to health..."
So the term "medically necessary" has a very broad and subjective legal definition. To be sure, it includes medical emergencies. However, it also means whatever may compromise the "health of the mother." And who decides what health means? Its meaning is decided on a case-by-case basis by "those licensed to practice medicine."
If this definition is troubling to you, you're not alone. Abortion is the most controversial medical procedure of our day. And, as former U.S. Supreme Court justice Stewart said in Roe vs. Wade,
"Abortion is inherently different from other medical procedures because no other procedure involves the purposeful termination of ... life."
Since abortion is a completely unique and highly controversial medical procedure, we believe the terms and conditions surrounding it should be very clearly defined.
Our New Ballot Initiative
When approved by voters, Oregon Life United’s new ballot initiative will amend the constitution of Oregon with the following: "The state shall not spend public funds for any abortion, except when medically necessary or as may be required by federal law.”
It is our conviction that Oregon taxpayers should not be forced to fund abortions with their tax dollars. We are also using the opportunity afforded by this amendment to clearly define the important terms in the amendment text. In light of the current lack of clarity, we have defined “medically necessary” as:
“...a condition in which a licensed physician determines that the pregnant woman suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness that would place her in danger of death unless an abortion is performed, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself.
We believe it's time to give Oregonians a chance to have their voice heard. Being forced to fund on-demand, elective abortions with our own tax dollars is an assault on our consciences and personal liberty. You are invited to help place this pro-life measure on the Oregon's next statewide ballot. Visit our petition drive website, www.StopTheFunding.org, to sign the petition and get involved.