Yes, your access to health care depends on who the next Governor is.

By Michele Stranger Hunter of Portland, Oregon. Michele is the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon Previously, she contributed "Great news! The Hobby Lobby ruling does not apply in Oregon"

The Oregon Governor hires the heads of at least 22 statewide agencies and appoints over 250 boards, commissions, task forces and work groups who affect everything from potholes, to birth control.

Here are eight ways Oregon’s Governor can use his executive authority to help or hurt women’s health.

1. A Governor can veto legislation including the state budget.

In 1999, Governor Kitzhaber vetoed the entire human resources budget because it included a ban on access to safe, legal abortion for low-income Oregonians. Governor Kitzhaber also vetoed a bill that would have endangered young women’s health by requiring parental notification prior to an abortion. Just as Governor Kitzhaber used the veto to protect women’s reproductive freedoms, Dennis Richardson would use his veto ability to attack them. In 1990 he actually said, “A woman relinquishes her unfettered right to control her own body when her actions cause the conception of a baby.”

2. The Governor appoints the heads of Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Insurance Division.

The Governor appoints agency heads that develop and enforce many of Oregon’s policies on access to affordable reproductive health services. For example, the Oregon Insurance Division is responsible for upholding the Affordable Care Act that makes all FDA approved forms of birth control available, at no cost, to Oregon women. It is safe to say that if Dennis Richardson is elected, this would not be the case. In 2007, Richardson voted against a bill requiring insurance companies to cover birth control – this is the same law that now is protecting Oregon women from having their contraception coverage dropped despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision.

3. The Governor appoints the Board of Pharmacy.

The Board of Pharmacy controls pharmacies and policies around the morning after pill. Oregon recently completed a survey of pharmacies to make certain that Oregon women were receiving accurate and reliable information on the morning after pill. With a pro-choice Governor in office, Oregon pharmacies are required to follow policies that ensure Oregon women have access to the morning after pill throughout the state.

4. Because of the ACA and Gov. Kitzhaber’s choice to expand Medicaid, 95% of Oregonians now have health insurance.

A woman struggling to make ends meet should not have to make decisions about her reproductive health based on how she gets her health coverage or how much money she has—her decision should be based on what is best for her and her family’s circumstances, and because of John Kitzhaber in Oregon she can. In contrast, Texas Gov. Rick Perry rejected Medicaid expansion leaving millions of women uninsured and signed harsh anti-choice legislation that forced over 30 abortion clinics to close. Rick Perry’s fundraiser Saturday for Dennis Richardson tells us all we need to know about his priorities for women’s healthcare.

5. The Oregon Governor sets the budget and goals for Coordinated Care Organization (CCOs).

Across Oregon, CCOs work to transform the healthcare system to bring better health, better care and lower costs to Oregonians, which includes tracking women and unplanned pregnancies. Unplanned pregnancies lead to poorer health outcomes for both the mother and infant. Governor Kitzhaber prioritizes health care for all Oregon women and this is passed on to our CCOs. By working to lower incidents of unplanned pregnancies, CCO’s are working for a healthier Oregon.

6. Under the Oregon Constitution, the Governor appoints vacancies in Circuit Court Judges, Court of Appeals Judges, Supreme Court Justices, Justices of the Peace, and District Attorneys.

A governor’s judicial appointments may one day end up ruling on some of Oregon’s strong abortion rights laws. An anti-choice governor’s appointments could be disastrous. Just last week in Texas, federal judges favored an anti-choice state law in a ruling that closed most Texas abortion clinics.

7. The Governor appoints all 12 members of the Oregon Medical Board.

The Governor appoints members to the Board of Health who share his commitment to women’s health and support his plan to review health center regulations. The Oregon Medical Board does careful background checks on each medical provider, and follows up on each complaint regarding care to best ensure all health policies meet the needs of all Oregonians. When the Governor knows that women’s access to comprehensive care, including abortion services, is essential to the well being of them and their families, you know the board of health doesn’t ignore women’s health issues. As Kitzhaber said “Ensuring that women have access to birth control, prenatal and preventive care and the right to choose gives them the economic freedom to pursue their dreams. And it’s an Oregon value that I fight for every day.”

8. The Governor inherently effects legislation.

The governor sets the tone and can push for state legislation. Governor Kitzhaber has pushed for health care for all women and laws protecting low-income women’s access to abortion. I think we all know the laws Dennis Richardson would push for… Since taking office in 2003, Richardson has sponsored multiple bills that would have restricted women’s rights. Fortunately, none of them became law. In 2006, Richardson was the chief sponsor of Ballot Measure 43, which would have forced young women to notify their parents prior to an abortion. Oregon voters rejected it. In 2009, Richardson voted against medically accurate, age-appropriate sexual health education. It’s impossible to believe that Richardson would not use all the power of the office to support these types bills if he were elected Governor.

These are eight reasons to vote for Governor Kitzhaber this November.

The threat to women’s lives is real. It is close to home this election as we are one Governor away from becoming an anti-choice state. Take a stand for what you believe and stop an anti-choice, anti-women candidate from having the reins of our state government.

Pledge to vote for Governor Kitzhaber!

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