PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Oregon lawmakers on Wednesday officially passed amended versions of the two bills — relating to guns, and abortion and gender-affirming care, respectively — that were at the center of a six-week Republican walkout.
Their final passage — coming the week after Republicans stopped their boycott and just days before the end of the legislative session on June 25 — highlighted the partisan hurdles that were overcome to bring the GOP walkout to an end.
But while the negotiated bipartisan agreements allowed the bills to progress and ultimately receive their final floor vote in the state House on Wednesday, they did not pass with support from both sides of the aisle.
Multiple GOP lawmakers spoke on the House floor to voice their opposition to the bills before the votes. Republican state Rep. Emily McIntire said that while she was grateful for the changes to the bill on abortion and gender-affirming care, she still could not support it.
“It is not with joy, but with a lot of trepidation and unease that I am here today,” she said. “I know that what I say to you today is most likely not going to change the outcome of this bill. But please know … we believe that we can get to a place where we can all be working together.”
As part of the deal to end Republican senators’ six-week walkout — the longest in the history of the Oregon Legislature — Democrats agreed to change parts of the two bills.
In the bill protecting access to abortion and expanding coverage for gender-affirming care, the language concerning parental notifications for abortion was modified. Under the compromise, if an abortion provider believes notifying the parents of a patient under 15 years old would not be in that patient’s best interest, the physician would not have to notify the parents — but would need another provider to concur. However, no second opinion would be needed if involving a parent or guardian would lead to the abuse or neglect of the patient.
Additionally, the requirement that public universities with student health centers provide emergency contraception and medication abortions was dropped.
The sections requiring health insurance to cover medically necessary gender-affirming care for transgender people were not changed.
Democrats said that even with the changes, the bill will still ensure abortion access and shield providers from legal action originating in states where the procedure is now banned or restricted.
Speaking on the House floor before Wednesday’s vote, Democratic state Rep. Rob Nosse said the bill “preserves the right Oregonians had under Roe v. Wade and further promotes health and safety for Oregonians by codifying the right of the full spectrum of reproductive health care.”
Democrats also agreed to drop several amendments on a bill that would punish the manufacturing or sale of undetectable firearms, also known as ghost guns. The now-removed clauses would have increased the purchasing age from 18 to 21 for semiautomatic rifles and placed more limits on concealed carry.
Every Republican present voted against the bill, while Democrats voted in favor. All but one Republican present voted against the abortion and gender-affirming care bill.
The bills were back in the state House, their original chamber, for a concurrence vote on Wednesday. Their passage came after an internet outage hit the Legislature’s website and disrupted its work for hours. They were initially approved by the House in May and then approved with the current amendments by the Senate last week on the same day the GOP walkout ended.
The bills will now head to Democratic Gov. Tina Kotek for her signature.
The Republican walkout ground much of the Legislature to a halt for all of May and the first half of June. The absence of GOP senators from the Senate floor prevented the chamber from reaching the two-thirds quorum needed to conduct business and pass bills.
The boycott occurred despite voters passing a ballot measure in 2022 that disqualifies lawmakers with 10 or more unexcused absences from reelection. But Republican senators are likely to sue over the measure if they’re not allowed to register as candidates, starting in September, for the 2024 election. Republicans also walked out in 2019, 2020 and 2021.
Claire Rush is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.
Claire Rush, The Associated Press