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Sunday, May 15, 2022

Bans Off Our Bodies

Rhode Island rallies and marches for abortion rights

By Uprise RI

Rhode Island joined with hundreds of other cities and towns on Saturday as part of a nationwide “Bans Off Our Bodies” rally against the United States Supreme Court which seems poised to reverse Roe v. Wade per a leaked draft opinion

Hundreds of people gathered at the Rhode Island Supreme Court on South Main Street, holding signs and chanting.

Of special interest in Rhode Island is the passage of the Equality in Abortion Coverage Act (EACA) (S2549 / H7442), which would allow the state Medicaid program to cover abortion and allow coverage for abortion in state employee health plans. 

Right now, leaders in the Rhode Island General Assembly have no interest in passing this bill, despite wide spread support from rank and file legislators.

“We’re mad as hell at a system that strips away our reproductive rights and further criminalizes pregnancy outcomes which is a direct result of white supremacy,” said Gretchen Raffa, Vice President, Public Policy, Advocacy and Organizing at Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, who organized the event. 

“We are made as hell at a system that bans abortion, yet doesn’t give people the resources they need to have healthy pregnancies and births…”

“Those of us who have worked in the abortion advocacy space were not surprised when that opinion was leaked but we’re still reeling and feel punch in the gut seeing our fears written out in that archaic language,” said Dr. Anna, an OB-GYN and proud abortion provider.

“I’m here to say that they can try to make this illegal if they want to, but we’re still going to do what we have to do to make sure that we can live the lives that we want and make sure that our communities are then care of,” said Kamika Ross, representing the Women’s Health and Education Fund (WHEF). “And that when we do decide to have kids, that we can raise them in an environment where we don’t have to be scared of them going out.”

“The ability to seek healthcare should not be predicated on who you are, where your benefits come from or how much money you make,” said Harshita Ganesh, a law student and board member with The Womxn Project. 

“We should be doing more to make sure that when somebody faces an unintended pregnancy that they are always the one that gets to decide whether they choose adoption, abortion, become a parent, or add to their family and that they should have access to safe, affordable medical care.”

Tammy Brown and Emma Gauthier, also Womxn Project board members, told the crowd that they can help pass the EACA by being at the Rhode Island State House of Thursday, May 19 at 4pm to attend the House Finance Committee hearing that will take public comment on the bill.

Democratic candidate for Governor Nellie Gorbea
“I need each and every on of you to call the Governor, call the Senate President and call the House Speaker and tell them that this legislation is not optional! That sticking up for our rights and our bodies and our decisions is not optional!”

“We have 36 sponsors in the House. We have 21 sponsors in the Senate, a clear majority,” said Senator Bridget Valverde (District 35, North Kingstown, Narragansett), speaking about the EACA. “but just like in 2019, with the Reproductive Privacy Act, we face opposition from legislators who don’t want to take a vote on this bill. So just like in 2019, we need to shake the State House. We need you to show up in person, and make noise…”

“Today the people who are on Medicaid and the people who have state health insurance plans cannot use their insurance coverage to access abortion care,” said Representative Liana Cassar (Democrat, District 66, Barrington, East Providence). 

“We all know that when we don’t have insurance coverage for any healthcare issue, we put that care off or we don’t get it at all. When it comes to abortion care, that makes the care more dangerous and it makes that care more expensive…”

“I’m sorry that we have to be here right now. I’m sorry we have to be here asking for the right to make our own choices. I’m sorry that there are people in power who could afford an abortion,” said C.J. Miller with the Rhode Island Queer PAC. “I’m sorry there are people in power who are not compassionate, who don’t give a damn about any single one of you today, including myself, a former foster youth!”

After C.J. spoke, he and Senator Tiara Mack (Democrat, District 6, Providence) led the crowd on a march from the Rhode Island Supreme Court to the Rhode Island State House.

The rally ended with a series of chants outside the Rhode Island State House. 

Those interested in working for the passage of the EACA are encouraged to find out more from The Womxn Project here and attend the House Finance Committee hearing on Thursday, May 19 at 4pm at the State House.