January 22, 2022 marked the 49th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Roe v. Wade. It may be the last, if the Supreme Court upholds a Mississippi law banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, therefore overturning Roe. In these troubling times when the 6-3 conservative majority Supreme Court is bent on overturning 50 years of legal precedent, it has never been more important for leaders at the local and state level to step up and take every possible opportunity to preserve a woman's right to control her body.
While I am grateful to live and serve in Oregon, and proud of my work to make it one of the most pro-choice states in the nation, I am very aware of the detrimental effects for Oregonians if Roe vs. Wade is overturned. We must prepare to see an estimated 234% increase in the number of people forced to travel to our state to access abortion care, and Multnomah County needs a leader who has proven her commitment to ensuring access to choices for women and families. I am that leader.
When I was young, I attended a Catholic school where we were shown anti-abortion propaganda as part of our ciruculum. One day I asked my mother, while she stood at the stove making spaghetti dinner, if she was pro-life. She said, “No, I’m not. I believe every woman has the right to choose for herself and no politician in DC should have control of our bodies.” I remember this so vividly because I realized in that moment that my belief echoed my mother’s: belief in the right of every person who can become pregnant to be treated as a human being capable of making their own decisions. My mom’s words became my mantra, not just when it comes to abortion rights but all reproductive rights. The right to have children, the right to support yourself and your children, the right to healthcare and high-quality, safe reproductive care. Even the right to take good care of your reproductive self, with access to the income needed to afford birth control and the transportation needed to acquire it. I could not be more proud or more sure of the access I’ve championed, both in the Oregon legislature and in my work representing District 3 at Multnomah County.
Having served in the state legislature, I am the only candidate in this race with a record of voting on reproductive justice issues.
As the first Latina to be elected to the Oregon House of Representatives:
- In 2013, I championed the expansion of an Oregon Health Authority program to ensure all women, regardless of immigration status, have access to prenatal care.
- In 2015, I was the chief sponsor of HB 3343, a first in the nation bill to greatly increase sustained access to birth control. It requires that health insurance providers reimburse contraception for a full 12 months, as opposed to 30 or 90 days. As of 2021, this bill has inspired 20 states and DC to follow Oregon’s lead in advancing patient access to contraceptives.
- “When a woman has the ability to plan if and when to have children, it’s beneficial to both her and to the state of Oregon,” —Rep. Vega Pederson, April, 2015
- In 2015, I was the chief sponsor of House Bill 2005, which requires all employers with 10 or more employees to offer at least 5 days a year of paid sick leave.
- "Too many Oregon workers have to face that decision of staying home themselves with a sick child or losing a day of pay." —Rep. Vega Pederson, June 2015
- In 2015, I was the chief co-sponsor of Senate Bill 552, the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights. This bill established uniform workplace protections for domestic workers, as well as ensuring protection against harassment in the workplace based on race, gender, sexual orientation, national origin or religion.
As Multnomah County Commissioner, I have been just as committed to ensuring access to choices for women and families.
- In 2017, I moved a county resolution to support the passage of the Reproductive Health Equity Act of 2017—the strongest and most inclusive reproductive health bill in the nation.
- “Reproductive healthcare and reproductive justice are basic human rights…. Inequities in access to reproductive care disproportionately affect women of color and women in the immigrant and refugee communities.” —Commissioner Vega Pederson, April, 2017
- In 2019, I advocated for the Equal Access to Roads Act in the Oregon Legislature, which expanded drivers’ cards to all Oregonians regardless of immigration status, recognizing the integral role transportation plays in a person's ability to access healthcare.
- “Barriers to transportation compound existing inequities and can lead to major disparities in health outcomes.” —Commissioner Vega Pederson, August, 2019
- In 2020, I championed Preschool for All, a program that will ensure every 3 and 4 year old in Multnomah County can access high-quality preschool, recognizing that reproductive freedom must also include the resources needed to raise a family. I ensured that Preschool for All was developed through a process that centered the needs, desires, and experiences of parents and families.
- In 2021, I supported Multnomah County’s efforts to fight abortion bans around the country, such as by filing amicus briefs to the Supreme Court regarding Dobbs v. Jackson, the very case at the center of the Supreme Court’s decision that may result in federal protections of abortion access falling.
- Throughout my career, I have championed policy, programs, and legislation to advance reproductive rights, and I will keep fighting. As Multnomah County Chair, I pledge to:
- Use the full extent of my policy and programmatic powers to support the freedom and ability of each person to control their reproductive and sexual lives, to foster thriving families, and to further efforts to destigmatize reproductive health care while working towards a future of universal access to abortion and contraception for all members of our communties.
- Work with local abortion providers to mitigate the impacts of federal restrictions and additional pressure our support systems will face when people from other states are forced to travel to Multnomah County to receive care. For example, allocate funding to trusted organizations like NWAAF to provide mutual aid to people experiencing barriers to obtaining abortion care, as well as training advanced health practitioners to provide medication abortion in county health facilities.
- Continue to work to ensure services are easily accessible, recognized as valuable, and integrated into the county’s larger health care system at the Multnomah County’s four clinics where abortion is available (the most of any county in Oregon).
- Ensure that Multnomah County continues to provide county employees with one of the state’s most comprehensive paid and family medical leave policies.
- Fight alongside other jurisdictions against abortion bans around the country.
- Expand transportation options in east Multnomah County to ensure everyone can access healthcare, regardless of where they live.
- Improve our ability to provide services to survivors of domestic violence.
- Launch a public awareness campaign to ensure residents know how and where they can access safe and legal abortion care in Multnomah County.
- Ensure essential services at Multnomah County are inclusive to all, and address the needs of all identities across key intersections, for example, supply intake forms are inclusive of all identities, make translation services fully available, and provide additional staff trainings to promote best practices in serving trans and gender non binary populations.
As a life-long supporter of reproductive justice, I know that there is much work to be done; Roe alone has never been enough to ensure people, especially Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, and people working to make ends meet, can get the care they need when and where they need it. As County Chair, I will continue to defend and advance access to safe and affordable reproductive care for our communities.