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Local editorials

(Not) taking care of business

Lawmakers in Salem are wasting time on futile anti-abortion bills

If the anti-abortion bills up for a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee Thursday sound familiar, they should. They've all been floated before.

Lawmakers should be spending their time and energy on the issues they were elected to tackle: the budget, for instance. But they aren't, because a small but extremely vocal minority of Oregonians insists that every session of the Legislature should try to restrict abortions.

This year's list of bills mirrors provisions that failed to pass in the 2001 and 2003 sessions, or were vetoed:

One bill would impose a mandatory 24-hour waiting period before an abortion could be performed. This provision would do little but make abortion less convenient, and in some cases could impose a hardship on women who had to travel to obtain an abortion.

The old standby, ordering doctors to explain the risks of the procedure, would merely codify something physicians already do.

A bill requiring parental notification before a minor has an abortion passed in 1999 but was vetoed by Gov. John Kitzhaber. Minors who have no reason to fear their parents needn't fear this bill; the consequences to the rest could be tragic.

— The Legislature has no power to outlaw abortion as long as the Supreme Court ruling legalizing it stands. So some lawmakers perennially try the next-best thing: nibbling around the edges of the law to make abortions as difficult as possible to obtain.

We'd feel a great deal better about the motives of those who support these measures if they were equally fervent in supporting comprehensive sex education in schools and attempts to make contraception easier and more available. Those measures would reduce unintended pregnancies and, therefore, abortions ' something everyone can support.

Some or all of these bills may pass the Republican-controlled House. None is likely to emerge from the Democrat-controlled Senate. And Gov. Ted Kulongoski, a pro-choice Democrat, is expected to veto any significant limitation that manages to pass both houses.

Lawmakers should get back to doing what voters sent them to Salem to do: balance the budget and come home.

To the dogs, again

Proponents of hunting cougars with dogs are backing measures to temporarily reinstate the practice in counties with large cougar populations. Supporters say the hunts are needed to assess the effects of cougar predation on deer and elk and to evaluate the threat they pose to humans.

The House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on the proposal in Baker City Thursday.

We're not convinced that current law is insufficient to deal with any threat, and we don't think Oregon voters are either.

In 1994 voters approved Ballot Measure 18, which outlawed hound hunting for both cougars and bears. An attempt by sport-hunting groups to overturn the ban failed at the polls two years later.

The other reason we oppose reopening this divisive issue is that current law already allows hunting with dogs when cougars prey on livestock, as long as the cougar is killed on the rancher's property. Hound hunting also is allowed when a cougar enters a populated area and poses a potential threat to residents.

Opponents of the bills say they are yet another attempt to overturn the hound-hunting ban. We are inclined to agree.