State legislators in Oregon are turning to anti-trust theory to ensure that residents of the state have access to reproductive health services—in particular, abortion services.

The state's elected officials enacted a bill designed to accomplish two goals: preserving Oregon's status as a safe haven for abortions, and making it tougher for large health systems to gobble up providers across the state. The law prohibits merger partners from restricting access to any services available to consumers pre-merger.

Providence Health Systems was the apparent target of the measure. Providence, a Roman Catholic provider based in Washington but active across Oregon, had been steadily expanding through acquisitions. Now, every deal it proposes in Oregon will be viewed through the lens of both market dominance and access to reproductive health services. Washington state legislators are expected to enact a similar bill to protect reproductive rights and slow Providence's expansion there.

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Dan Cook

Dan Cook is a journalist and communications consultant based in Portland, OR. During his journalism career he has been a reporter and editor for a variety of media companies, including American Lawyer Media, BusinessWeek, Newhouse Newspapers, Knight-Ridder, Time Inc., and Reuters. He specializes in health care and insurance related coverage for BenefitsPRO.