Last week, Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian called on his opponent, Senator Bruce Starr (R-Hillsboro), to reject the Republican party platform that calls for a ban on all abortions - even when a woman is the victim of rape or incest, or when the woman's life is at stake. (You can co-sign Avakian's letter to Starr here.)
I hope you’ll agree with me that this policy presents a serious threat to the health of Oregon’s women and is an unacceptable infringement on personal medical decisions that must be left to a woman, her family, and her faith, with the counsel of her doctor or health care provider.
As the chief elected official protecting Oregonians’ civil rights, I believe in respecting the real-life decisions that women and their families face every day. And I believe strongly that all elected officials – regardless of party affiliation – must speak up when women’s health is threatened.
Yesterday, the Oregonian editorial was both dismissive and indignant:
Could somebody please tell Oregon labor commissioner Brad Avakian that his position handles workplace issues, not matters of child birth? "Labor" does have multiple meanings, but, jeez, you'd think Avakian could tell them apart after more than four years on the job. ... [W]hat the heck does an easily ridiculed plank in the GOP platform have to do with the Bureau of Labor and Industries? ... [T]his was a ham-fisted attempt to play the abortion card.
Sorry, anonymous-editorial-writer at the Big O, but you've missed the whole point.
Oregon's labor commissioner has one main job - protecting the civil rights of Oregonians in the workplace and in housing. Some of those rules and regulations are pretty complex and hard to understand. If Oregonians can’t count on Bruce Starr to defend this most basic civil right – the right of a woman to make her own health care decisions – then how can Oregonians count on him to defend the more-complex civil rights in the workplace and housing? It's a signal issue - one that tells voters something fundamental about the candidates' approach to civil rights.
In addition, Oregonians expect their elected officials to speak up and speak out. There are lots and lots of examples where something bad could have been avoided if someone had just raised their hand. "That's not my job" isn't an acceptable answer. And it's not the way that leaders act. Leaders should lead. And it's a little bizarre that the Oregonian newspaper would have politicians hide under their desk rather than take bold stands on issues that matter.
I'm proud to stand with Brad Avakian - and I'm proud that he's unafraid to talk about things that matter to Oregonians, whether or not it's in the formal job description.
The bottom line is this: Brad Avakian trusts women, not politicians, to make decisions about their health care. Bruce Starr would rather put extremist politicians in charge of those decisions.