Welcome to Oregon, the State of Teenage Sterilization!

I’ve now lived in Oregon for over twenty years, having moved here in the summer of 1991 from Montana. I lived in Portland for a few years, during the craziness of the Measure 9 controversy, then in Eugene (my wife’s hometown) since 1995. In 1997, the year that we entered the Catholic Church, Oregon became the first to state to legalize assisted suicide, via the “Death with Dignity Act”. As I’ve sometimes dryly noted, when giving talks in other parts of the country, Oregon is that surreal place where you aren’t trusted to pump your own gas, but if you’d like to kill yourself, the State is there to assist you.

Oregon is indeed a curious place, politically and culturally: generally speaking, it likes to present itself as a liberty-loving, eccentric haven for free-thinkers who thumb their nose at convention, tradition, religion, and the mores of middle America. In reality, it is more like a State-operated insane asylum in which the inmates are reassured of how openminded, cutting-edge, and truly liberal they are, while their political masters continuously and confidently promote a culture of death, secular homogenization, and narrowminded bullying that is equally breathtaking and bizarre.

As odd as it might sound, I suspect that one reason Oregon’s political leaders are able to pull many of the deadly, anti-life stunts they do is because of how jaw-dropping beautiful this state is. People are willing to put up with a lot of craziness in order to live in one of the most gorgeous places in the United States, where they have access to the ocean, beaches, streams, rivers, forests, mountains, and farmlands without the worries of tornadoes, (large) earthquakes, hurricanes, and humidity. (We do take our chances with volcanoes.) Of course, it’s not as if all Oregonians are ultra-progressive crusaders for euthanasia, abortion, same-sex marriage, and all the other faddish ills of enlightened secularism; there are, in fact, many good, sane people here (even if few of them go to church or practice “organized religion”—Oregon leads the nation “with 25% of its residents claiming no particular religious identity”).

But, in the end, Oregon seems deadset on being California, Jr.—or even outdoing California in some ways, as this recent bit of news indicates:

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) – Forget the milestones of obtaining a driver’s license at 16 and being able to legally drink at 21 – getting sterilized at 15 is now the first step in the social maturity process of an American youth.

The “Required Health Plan Coverage Guidelines” set forth by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states: “Non-grandfathered plans and issuers are required to provide coverage without cost-sharing consistent with these guidelines in the first plan year.that begins on or after August 1, 2012.All [FDA] approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity.”

Under Oregon State Law, the state’s revised statutes (ORS) defines “informed consent” for 15-year-olds independently pursuing reproductive sterilization as being “(a) Based upon a full understanding of the nature and consequences of sterilization pursuant to information requirements set forth in ORS 436.225(1); (b) Given by an individual competent to make such a decision; and (c) Wholly voluntary and free from coercion, express or implied.”

Stephanie Zawada, the author of the Catholic Online piece, asks: “So you need parental consent to contract a state-sanctioned marriage under the age of 18 in the U.S., but you, all by yourself, can give full consent to the irreversibility of sterilization at 15? Chances are, you do not even know your future spouse, yet you’re already determining his or her fate as well?”

Well, to be fair, thinking ahead and measuring consequences isn’t a big part of the dominant Oregon culture; it really is a “live for the moment!” mindset here. So none of this, sadly, is surprising—especially not when you consider the state’s political leadership. Oregon’s governor, John Kitzhaber, has impeccable pro-abortion credentials; he was re-elected for a record third time despite having a dubious record of accomplishment in any field other than growing the power and influence of the public sector and promoting “choice”. While senator, he authored the Oregon healthcare plan (he is an M.D.). “NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon, their members and their volunteers”, he says, “can trust that I will always be a pro-choice advocate.”

Eugene, where I live, has one of the worst economies in a state that has one of the weakest economies in the nation. Yet the city recently re-elected Kitty Piercy—a former Public Affairs Director for Planned Parenthood—as mayor, even though she thinks higher taxes are the solution to nearly every economic crisis. Piercy touts her “human rights” record even while being staunchly pro-abortion. She also seems to be irony-challenged; last year she said that reciting the Pledge of Allegiance prior to city council meetings was “divisive”, infamously remarking, “If there’s one thing the flag stands for, it’s that people don’t have to be compelled to say the Pledge of Allegiance or anything else.” That sort of inanity is deemed intellectually superior by the hippie and yuppie sets who think “Question Authority” bumper stickers are the epitome of daring wit.

All of which to say that Oregon, with this latest news about teenage sterilizations, continues a not-so-grand, radical tradition of anti-life policies and anti-family attitudes. Again, this is hardly surprising—not for a state that “does not have any of the major types of abortion restrictions—such as waiting periods, mandated parental involvement or limitations on publicly funded abortions—often found in other states” (Guttmacher Institute, “State Facts About Abortion: Oregon”).

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About Carl E. Olson 1217 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. His recent books on Lent and Advent—Praying the Our Father in Lent (2021) and Prepare the Way of the Lord (2021)—are published by Catholic Truth Society. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @carleolson.