By Knute Buehler
The misleading Aug. 9 op-ed by Grayson Dempsey of Oregon NARAL attacking my pro-choice views is so personally offensive that I must respond.
When it comes to abortion rights, I believe most Oregonians are either pro-choice with certain limitations or pro-life with certain exceptions. I am pro-choice. And while people of conscience will disagree and hold firm views, my experience is that most Oregonians manifest their positions moderately and with thoughtful consideration for other points of view. Unfortunately, that’s not how groups like NARAL, Planned Parenthood and Emily’s List operate. These groups engage in scorched-earth, highly partisan politics and are quick to attack anyone who doesn’t agree 110 percent with their far-left agenda. I agree with President Bill Clinton’s famous 1992 statement that abortion in America should remain “safe, legal and rare.” But today’s mantra from Oregon’s pro-abortion lobby is more like “taxpayer-funded, un-checked and on-demand.” And while I’m pro-choice, I actually believe in the idea of making abortion “rare,” along with keeping it safe and legal. Remarkably, that’s no longer an acceptable position among the professional pro-abortion lobby.
As a state lawmaker I’ve followed a moderate, independent-minded and balanced path: supporting abortion and reproductive rights, advancing legislation to make birth control more accessible for women to reduce unwanted pregnancies and abortions (for example House Bill 2879, 2015, 2527 and 2017), and opposing extreme legislation that crosses the line from being pro-choice to pro-abortion (House Bill 3391 and 2017). If elected governor, I’ll do the same. I won’t have a single-issue litmus test for legislation, appropriations or nominations. This moderate approach, while reflecting where I believe most Oregonians also stand, places me at odds with some lobbying organizations, like NARAL, which benefit from keeping the debate highly-charged and polarized. This is one reason why I am sharing my views on this sensitive topic directly with as many Oregonians as possible.
More important than the politics is the fact that the innovative policies I’ve been advancing as a legislator are working. Since the implementation of HB 2879 — the over-the-counter birth control law I wrote in 2015 — abortions in Oregon have declined by 18 percent. This June, the year-over-year decline was 42 percent. And while teen pregnancies have been steadily declining in recent years, there has been a big drop since 2016 due to increased access to contraception under Oregon’s pioneering new law. According to latest totals, teen pregnancies in Oregon have been cut nearly in half since 2015 – a 49 percent reduction. All of this data is available on OHA’s website.
Oregonians should be aware that the politics fueling these attacks are part of a larger national campaign to marginalize and silence moderate voices within either political party on abortion. For example, when California Gov. Jerry Brown recently said on Meet the Press that abortion shouldn’t be a “litmus test” and suggested that pro-life candidates and voters should be welcome in the Democratic Party, he was immediately attacked for being insufficiently doctrinaire on abortion. So ask yourself: If Jerry Brown isn’t pro-choice enough for NARAL and Planned Parenthood, who is?
These attacks reflect a rigid intolerance that has taken root in American politics. Unless you are 100 percent in agreement and toe-the-line in both word and deed with the self-appointed guardians of certain orthodoxy, you are the enemy of their cause and must be silenced, defeated and purged. This is wrong. And while it may be the new normal in national politics, it is a recent and regrettable phenomenon in Oregon that has ramifications far beyond abortion. Intolerance undermines our ability to find common ground on issues critical to Oregon’s future – like long overdue education, budget, health care and pension reforms.
I’m running for governor to re-establish a moderate, bipartisan center where the best ideas from Republicans, Democrats and Independents can create a better Oregon. This is a big change from Kate Brown who has chosen to cater to narrow, liberal special-interests and has put a highly partisan, Portland-centric agenda ahead of hardworking Oregon families.
I believe Oregon is ready for this kind of change, and I’m eager to lead it.