PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Nearly two dozen advocacy groups are urging Gov. Dan McKee to sign an executive order ensuring that abortion procedures are covered for all Rhode Island women.
In a letter the governor, the advocacy groups urged him to “use every tool he has” to protect a woman’s right to choose.
“We must do all we can to ensure access to timely, affordable, compassionate abortion care when people need it,” the letter reads.
The push for abortion rights follows the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which guaranteed women the constitutional right to an abortion for more than 50 years.
While Rhode Island has codified Roe v. Wade into state law, the procedure costs wouldn’t be covered for state employees and Medicaid recipients. That’s why advocates are specifically asking McKee to sign an executive order requiring state-funded insurance to cover abortion procedures.
The Rhode Island General Assembly wrapped up its legislative session last month without approving a high-profile bill that would’ve done just that, much to abortion rights advocates’ dismay.
“Despite the importance of passing these laws, our legislators have failed to enact them,” the letter states. “It is not enough to say we protect the right if we do not ensure access and make sure that people who need care can get it regardless of the type of insurance they use.”
McKee recently signed an executive order protecting abortion reproductive health care providers and patients statewide.
But advocates believe more needs to be done, adding that the lack of coverage financially prevents thousands of Rhode Island woman from getting an abortion.
“The current policies fuel health inequity and push the right to abortion away from people struggling to make ends meet,” the letter continues.
McKee has repeatedly expressed support for the legislation, but a spokesperson for the governor said in a statement that his hands are tied.
“Our legal office has concluded that we cannot use an executive order to reverse the expressed prohibitions codified in statute,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “The best course of action is for the General Assembly to pass the bill and send it to the governor’s desk for signature next session.”
R.I. House Speaker Joe Shekarchi and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio have already said that the measure will be considered again in 2023.
That response isn’t sitting well with advocates, who argue that there’s no time to waste.
“Don’t tell us to wait for next year,” the letter states. “It is time to halt the bans on health coverage and direct public health programs to include coverage for abortion. We must act urgently as if our lives depend on it, because they do.”