Senate passes abortion and firearms bills as work resumes

The Senate on Thursday quickly and without debate passed two of the most contentious bills of the session – on abortion and firearms – as the Republican-led walkout ended and work began.

To reach this point, senators endured a walkout that began on May 3 and ended Thursday with compromises to both proposals: House bills 2002 and 2005. 

An amended version of  House Bill 2002 would require health care providers to tell parents or guardians about abortions for patients younger than 15 unless the provider determines that informing a parent could result in abuse or neglect, or if a second health care provider with a different facility agrees that it wouldn’t be in the child’s best interest to involve a parent.

The previous version of the bill that sparked the walkout would have allowed minors of any age to obtain an abortion without parental consent. It also contained since-removed grant funds for abortion and other reproductive health care on college campuses and in rural areas.

The bill protects providers who perform abortion or transgender care and requires health insurers to cover “medically necessary gender-affirming care,”  including treatments like facial feminization surgery and electrolysis that are now treated as cosmetic procedures. State-run insurance programs and most private insurers have been required to cover abortions at no cost to patients since 2017.

For House Bill 2005 on gun control, the compromise eliminated a provision to raise the legal age for buying most firearms from 18 to 21 years old and a provision allowing local governments to ban guns on their property. But the bill still would ban “ghost” guns, which are untraceable and don’t have serial numbers.

As a result, the compromise gave both sides something to tout. 

Senate Majority Kate Lieber, D-Beaverton, said negotiations gained traction when the conversation shifted away from Republicans wanting to kill bills to their specific problems within bills.

“When they stopped saying, ‘You have to kill your Democratic priorities,’ then we were able to come to the table and figure out a path,” Lieber told reporters.

Minority Leader Tim Knopp, R-Bend, said in a statement the senators who joined the walkout were the “last line of defense for parental rights.”

The vote on both bills was 17-3, with all three Republicans present for votes opposed, including Knopp and Sens. Lynn Findley of Vale and Dick Anderson of Lincoln City.

Because of the amendments, the bills will now return to the House for votes. The House is next scheduled to convene on Tuesday.

The Legislature faces a deadline of June 25 for the session to conclude.

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Ben Botkin - Oregon Capital Chronicle

Ben Botkin covers justice, health and social services issues for the Oregon Capital Chronicle. He has been a reporter since 2003, when he drove from his Midwest locale to Idaho for his first journalism job. He has written extensively about politics and state agencies in Idaho, Nevada and Oregon. Most recently, he covered health care and the Oregon Legislature for The Lund Report. Botkin has won multiple journalism awards for his investigative and enterprise reporting, including on education, state budgets and criminal justice.