Suzanne Belatti is co-chief petitioner for Measure 106.
Suzanne Belatti is co-chief petitioner for Measure 106.

Catholic leaders are asking Oregonians to approve Measure 106, a grassroots ballot initiative that would limit taxpayer funding of elective abortions. 

“Our public tax dollars should be used to truly support women and families in need and not to pay for the irreversible and harmful effects of abortion,” Portland Archbishop Alexander Sample wrote in a letter read at western Oregon parishes last weekend. “Oregonians should no longer be forced to pay for elective, late-term and even sex-selective abortions.”

In his letter, Archbishop Sample added that the church understands the difficult choice a woman may face if she has an unplanned pregnancy. “Abortion can seem like an easy solution, but ending the life of a newly conceived child is a costly choice,” he wrote. “Every child is a precious gift. In addition to killing a child in the womb, abortion causes devastating emotional, spiritual and physical harm to women, children and families.”

Bishop Liam Cary of the Diocese of Baker in central and eastern Oregon told Catholics, “Your clear and strong support is vitally important.”

Measure 106, on the Nov. 6 ballot, would not ban abortions but would halt use of state tax dollars on abortions not needed for medical reasons.

“Abortions are elective procedures that should not be funded with public money,” said Todd Cooper, representative of the Oregon Catholic Conference, the church’s public policy arm. “Voting yes on Measure 106 helps protect children, women and families from the harm of abortion.”

Oregon has the nation’s most permissive laws on ending pregnancies. The 2017 state Legislature passed a bill that provides for free, taxpayer-funded abortions for anyone at any time during the term.

Last year, the state used $1.9 million for more than 3,500 abortions. On average, Oregon taxpayers fund 10 abortions per day via the Oregon Health Plan.

Oregon is in the minority with such spending. Prohibitions on the use of public funds for abortion are in effect in 32 states and the District of Columbia. 

Father Matt Libra, associate director for pro-life activities for the Archdiocese of Portland, wrote an open letter calling the campaign to approve Measure 106 an “opportunity to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to vote with informed consciences and so help build up the Kingdom of God in our state of Oregon.”

For years, Catholics have played a part in the effort to place an abortion spending ban on the ballot. Campaigners failed twice before succeeding this summer, bringing in more than 150,000 signatures. About 10,000 volunteers and more than 600 churches took part.

“I think of you as the saints we need now in this vote on Measure 106,” Father Libra wrote to voters, invoking the image of St. Thomas More, the Renaissance English chancellor who chose divine teaching over government directives.

“Thomas More chose to put God first,” Father Libra wrote. “Be brave men and women. With you the whole history of the world can be different; with you we can build a culture of life.”

According to Suzanne Belatti, co-chief petitioner for Measure 106, the proposed law can be seen as both furthering social justice and advancing fiscal responsibility.

“In a state that loves individual freedom and abortion but hates taxes, this is a win-win for Oregonians,” said Belatti, a member of St. Therese and St. Rose parishes in Northeast Portland. “Everybody gets freedom. Abortion isn’t restricted by the passing of Measure 106 and taxpayers are freed from the burden of paying for something that doesn’t make sense to them as necessary medical care.”

Belatti hopes Catholics will vote in record numbers next month yet says many kinds of Oregonians see the sense of Measure 106. “There’s a lot of people with different values who can agree that unrestricted funding of the most controversial elective medical procedure in the world, with public money, is a bit off in terms of state tax funding priorities,” she said.

For Belatti, the policy of free abortion is an act of cruelty against women who are struggling. Many women and families are left wounded when the unborn child is killed, she said.

“We can do better than this,” Belatti added. “Families and women deserve more. Better resources are available and they need to be championed.”

Catholics should be concerned when the government funds abortion as a means to address poverty, Belatti added. “My hope is that sooner rather than later, as a society, we will begin to see two people when we look at a pregnant woman,” she said. “Two people who deserve care and compassion, no matter their circumstances or how they came to be in that situation.”

Belatti said advocates are “cautiously optimistic” about passage but have had to counter disinformation.

“The more we speak to the truth with love about abortion, the more we scatter the lies,” she said. “Win or not, that is the greatest benefit to our society.”

The Oregonian newspaper has recommended a no vote on Measure 106.

“It’s understandable that some Oregonians do not want their tax dollars used to pay for a medical procedure they find abhorrent,” the newspaper’s Sept. 30 editorial said. “Yet decisions about medical care are complicated and deeply personal. Those decisions involve considering the full range of procedures approved by the American Medical Association, state and federal law, and weighing guidance from individual circumstances, personal beliefs and counsel from trusted sources. They should not be determined at the ballot box.”

Oregon Right to Life supports the measure. Lois Anderson, executive director, said the organization also is working to get more pro-life legislators elected. Each chamber of the Oregon Legislature is one seat away from having a supermajority of lawmakers who back the state’s permissive abortion policies, meaning pro-life lawmakers could not block further proposed laws.