PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A bill that would ensure abortion procedures are covered for all Rhode Island women just cleared a major hurdle.
The R.I. House passed the Equality in Abortion Coverage Act Thursday, which would repeal the ban on abortion coverage for state employees and Medicaid recipients.
“This will ensure that everyone has equal access,” Rep. Katherine Kazarian said. “It shouldn’t be that you can only have access if you can afford it.”
The legislation was first introduced last year, with a renewed push following the leak of a draft decision that indicated the U.S. Supreme Court was poised to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Rhode Island codified abortion rights into state law back in 2019 in anticipation of such a ruling. But Kazarian believes that isn’t enough to protect a woman’s right to an abortion in the Ocean State.
“While I am grateful that Rhode Island has codified Roe v. Wade into state law, access to reproductive health is still not equal in our state,” Kazarian said. “Unless an individual is able to pay the costs out of pocket or is on private insurance, these essential health care services are still out of reach for too many Rhode Islanders.”
Kazarian reintroduced her bill earlier this year after it was held for further study last session.
Planned Parenthood of Rhode Island lauded the bill’s approval, describing it as a “historic victory in the ongoing fight for reproductive freedom and equity in Rhode Island.”
“Lifting these barriers to abortion coverage is essential to ensuring that people have the autonomy to make the best health care decisions for themselves and their families without political interference,” Planned Parenthood’s Gretchen Raffa said.
Though the House voted overwhelmingly in favor of the legislation, 24 lawmakers, including 15 Democrats, rejected it.
“The government should not force people to pay taxes for something they’re fundamentally against,” Rep. Charlene Lima said.
The bill now heads to the R.I. Senate for consideration. If passed, Rhode Island would join the ranks of 16 other states, including Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and Maine, whose Medicaid programs cover abortion procedures.