PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – After winning a close race in November for Oregon’s new 6th congressional district in November, Representative Andrea Salinas has made the fight for health care access a priority.
Salinas, a member of the Pro-Choice Caucus, says the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization Supreme Court decision — which overturned Roe v. Wade — not only impacts women’s access to reproductive health care but also their economic freedom.
“Stepping back to the Dobbs decision, that was an incredibly hurtful decision to women across the U.S. Women who had the ability to make their own decisions about their body and their autonomy and their economic future,” Salinas told KOIN 6 News.
“I take it back to economics, if you can’t decide whether or when to start a family or have a child, you are also not free to decide whether or not you work and what kind of working conditions you have. So, this is a huge right that has been taken away from women across the U.S.,” she continued.
Salinas added that the Dobbs decision made abortion illegal in 15 states, including neighboring Idaho.
“It does have an impact here in Oregon because we’re now seeing people coming from different states knowing that they can access care. However, providers themselves are under attack and under assault right now,” Salinas said.
The bill recognizes the right to make reproductive health care decisions as a fundamental personal right and says that a consenting individual cannot be deprived of their rights to health care. The bill also makes interfering with a health care facility a crime punishable by almost one year of imprisonment and a $6,250 fine or both.
During that same bill signing, Kotek also signed House Bill 2697 which addresses health care staffing shortages by requiring hospitals to establish staffing committees and imposes penalties if hospitals fail to adopt staffing plans.
Salinas says her constituents are also concerned about health care worker shortages.
“I was just at one of my medical centers earlier this week in the 6th District and they basically said, ‘We are losing OBGYN’s who are either not serving any more, not practicing and we’re not recruiting them because the fear of legal backlash,'” Salinas said. “This is going to be not just an issue for women who want abortions, but women who actually want safe deliveries of a full-term pregnancy.”
The representative is also working to de-stigmatize mental health care and started Mental Health Mondays — a series of floor speeches and social media posts dedicated to shining a light on mental health.
“It is a nationwide problem and I feel like it’s pretty intense here,” Salinas said. “In Oregon’s mental health challenges, we rank very low in access to providers and to care.”
Salinas is working on a bill to address financial barriers to mental health care. The bill, which Salinas said she will introduce in September, will provide three no-cost care visits for people enrolled in Medicare or Medicaid.
She added, “I realize it doesn’t actually address the access barrier and the providers that we need but I know I have colleagues on both sides of the aisle who are eager to jump in and continue to work on this.”
Watch the video above for more.