By editorial board • 

Arguments based more on fear than facts

New parents — especially those caught off guard by the experience — have countless questions.

There should be a program where they can invite nurses to drop by during the first two or three weeks after the baby arrives to answer questions and offer advice. Perhaps there might soon be a program, but apparently not in Yamhill County.

Senate Bill 526, which went to the floor of the Oregon Senate for a vote Thursday, too late to make the deadline for this space, would create such a program.

Participation would be open, on a strictly voluntary basis, for new parents receiving medical coverage through the Oregon Health Plan. But opponents refusing to recognize the voluntary component managed to get county commissioners to reject local participation.

Critics speculated the Oregon Health Authority would eventually make the program mandatory.

The basis for that belief likely comes from testimony submitted Jan. 8 by Cate Wilcox, manager of the agency’s maternal and child health section, for the Senate Committee on Health. If so, critics are confusing the word “universal” with “involuntary.”

Wilcox advised senators the second phase of the program would “incorporate families with commercial insurance in the Universal Home Visiting program.” Eventually, she wrote, the program could potentially “reach every family in Oregon.”

Many people already view the Legislature’s Democratic supermajority with a wary eye. With talk of a “universal” program reaching “every family,” no wonder some of those eyes are twitching.

However, if people objectively read Wilcox’s written testimony — and, more importantly, the bill itself — they will find nothing suggesting the program eventually becomes mandatory. “Universal” means it would be available for everyone, not that it would be required for everyone.

Critics’ misinterpretation is sadly reflective of an era in which people tend to react first and question later. In this case, the public testimony was also disheartening in other ways.

The only action actually suggested by Lindsey Manfrin, the county’s public health administrator, was the signing of a letter of intent to participate in the new Family Connects program. However, in the absence of facts, frightened people resorted to recounting conspiracy theories without a shred of evidence.

This is no way for citizens of a free society and their elected leaders to create public policy. Confusing allegations with evidence and indulging in emotional reactionism is a poor way for elected officials to govern. It’s an even worse way for us to live our lives in this society.


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