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Thursday, February 20, 2020

Make freedom of choice less discriminatory

Bill on abortion coverage introduced with 26 sponsors in House, 19 in Senate

Image result for abortion rightsSen. Bridget Valverde and Rep. Liana Cassar this week introduced their legislation to lift the ban on abortion coverage for state employee health plans and ensure that abortion care is covered by Medicaid. The bill has a total of 26 sponsors in the House and 19 in the Senate.

“Today, we took the next step in ending the unfair, discriminatory system we have in place here in Rhode Island with the introduction of this legislation. With 19 cosponsors in the Senate, the support for this bill is clear. And that’s because it’s common sense that no one should be denied coverage of a basic medical procedure because of where they work or how much money they make. 

"Medicaid patients and those covered under state employee health plans deserve the same coverage as someone with private insurance. The explicit denial of health coverage for abortion that is currently written into law has to end and we’ll be working hard over the next few months to reach that goal,” said Senator Valverde (D-Dist. 35, North Kingstown, East Greenwich, Narragansett, South Kingstown).

The bill would add Rhode Island to the ranks of 16 states, including Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and Maine, whose Medicaid programs cover abortion.

The Equality in Abortion Coverage Act that Senator Valverde and I have introduced this week has strong support in both chambers because our colleagues understand that access to safe, legal abortion includes economic access. A third of the members of the House have signed on in support of this legislation,” said Representative Cassar (D-Dist. 66, Barrington, East Providence). 

“Access to healthcare services is determined in most cases by an individual’s health insurance. Right now, there are people for whom there is a barrier to access to abortion solely as a result of their insurance coverage. Ensuring that Medicaid and state insurance plans cover abortion ensures equal access to health services so that people have the opportunity to make their own choices about their lives and their families.

The legislation eliminates sections of law that expressly prohibit state employees’ and Medicaid recipients’ insurance from covering for abortion, except in cases of rape or incest or where the life of the mother would be endangered, as required by federal law. 

In compliance with the federal Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding of abortion services, it adds language that specifies that no federal funds shall be used to pay for them, except as authorized under federal law. The law would take effect upon passage.

The legislation is part supported by the Coalition for Reproductive Freedom, The Womxn Project, ACLU of Rhode Island, the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island, the League of Women Voters of RI, the Women’s Health and Education Fund, RI NOW, Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the National Council of Jewish Women, the Rhode Island Religious Coalition for Reproductive Freedom, Humanists of Rhode Island, Rhode Island Democratic Women’s Caucus, Coyote RI, National Association of Social Workers Rhode Island Chapter, United States of Women (Rhode Island), CaneIWalk, Swing Left Rhode Island, The Collective and Our  Revolution​ RI.