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Oregon is liberal when it comes to access to abortion. It’s among 16 states that do not require parental notification or consent for teen abortions. Oregon does not mandate counseling or limit when an abortion can be performed.
Planned Parenthood PAC of Oregon sent out a letter this month claiming that Democrat John Kitzhaber is the only pro-choice candidate in the race for governor. That means Chris Dudley, the Republican in the race, is anti-choice.
The campaign letter reads: "In contrast, Chris Dudley wants to roll back a woman's right to choose. He supports restrictions that Oregon voters have rejected multiple times, and that threaten women's health. And Chris Dudley has singled out ‘abstinence’ education as a way to address unintended pregnancy. He is out of step with Oregon values and cares more about catering to extreme positions than providing real education and access to birth control."
Two questions came to mind. Does Dudley really want to "roll back" a woman’s right to choose? And if he is open to restrictions -- such as notifying parents before a minor opts for an abortion -- does that automatically mean he is not pro-choice?
PolitiFact Oregon asked Planned Parenthood to share the goods. Roey Thorpe, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon, provided a letter that Dudley sent June 2. In it, he declines to answer the group’s questionnaire and explains his position on abortion.
"I believe that abortion should remain legal -- but limited. I do not support the public funding of abortion. As governor, I will not propose new legal restrictions on abortion, but I would be open to proposals for parental notification for minors who seek abortions, limits on late-term abortions and efforts to reduce abortion through education and abstinence." He added that he would not use a single-issue litmus test when nominating judges, appointing board members or approving legislation.
OK, that sounds clear, but not crystal. For example, does that mean he would spearhead legislation if it’s regarding parental notification, or just entertain the idea if it comes from elsewhere?
We followed up with the Dudley campaign. Spokesman Jake Suski said Dudley would not propose any legislation related to abortion or reproductive rights. But if legislation landed on his desk related to parental notification or late-term abortions, Dudley would be "open to signing it. It doesn’t guarantee he would sign it." Suski also said Dudley identifies himself as "pro-choice."
Thorpe says any effort to restrict access or curb the law means a person is not pro-choice.
"Rolling back the rights that women already have in Oregon is not a centrist position," she said. "Safe and legal abortion is a right that people have."
Thorpe also cited Dudley’s singling out of abstinence education as a sign that he’s on the wrong side of the issue. But Sharon Kitzhaber, the former first lady, was a founder and board member of the STARS Foundation in Oregon. That stands for Students Today Aren’t Ready for Sex, and its mission, according to this archived press release, was to "help reduce teenage pregnancies by postponing teenage sexual involvement."
In any case, the Oregon Right to Life people aren’t happy with Dudley, either. He didn’t fill out their questionnaire and the group declined to recommend -- much less endorse -- him in the general election. "He wrote them a letter," sniffed Gayle Atteberry, director of Oregon Right to Life, referring to Planned Parenthood. "He didn't even write us a letter."
Dudley believes -- and we think many people concur -- that he is pro-choice because he believes abortion should be legal. We recognize, though, that there isn’t universal agreement on the definition of pro-choice.
Some abortion rights supporters are against any restrictions. Others who define themselves as pro-choice do support limitations, on late term abortions, for example.
Dudley admittedly has not said much on this issue, and that’s part of what’s driving Thorpe and Planned Parenthood. He said he’s open to restrictions but doesn’t have an agenda to roll back reproductive rights. Dudley mentioned abstinence in his letter to Planned Parenthood, but Kitzhaber’s former wife championed abstinence education and nobody marked her as anti-choice.
Certainly, Kitzhaber is more adamant about his stance on abortion and reproductive rights. He has the endorsement of Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon, which traditionally endorses Democrats. And when he was governor, he vetoed a 1999 bill that would have required physicians to notify parents before providing abortion care to minors.
Planned Parenthood PAC’s statement ignores critical facts. The claim is Barely True.
Editor's note: This statement was rated Barely True when it was published. On July 27, 2011, we changed the name for the rating to Mostly False.
Interview with Roey Thorpe, executive director Planned Parenthood PAC of Oregon, Oct. 6, 2010
Interview with Gayle Atteberry, director Oregon Right to Life, Oct. 7, 2010
Interview with Jake Suski, Dudley spokesman, Oct. 7, 2010
Guttmacher Institute, State Policies in Brief: An Overview of Abortion Laws, Oct. 1, 2010
The Oregonian, "Oregon Right to Life turns sharply against Chris Dudley," April 23, 2010
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