PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — More than 100 people signed up to testify both for and against a proposal that would ensure abortion procedures are covered for all Rhode Island women.
The House Finance Committee took up legislation Thursday that would repeal the ban on abortion coverage for state employees and Medicaid recipients.
Rep. Liana Cassar, the bill’s sponsor, began drumming up support for the proposal soon after the unprecedented release of a U.S. Supreme Court draft decision that implied the eventual overturning of Roe v. Wade, which has guaranteed women the constitutional right to an abortion since 1973.
“I urge my colleagues to resist the temptation to insert the beliefs of a small number of legislators into the exam rooms of a large number of health care providers and their patients,” Cassar told the committee.
While Rhode Island has codified Roe v. Wade into state law, the procedure costs wouldn’t be covered for state employees and Medicaid recipients.
Roughly one-quarter of all Rhode Islanders are covered by Medicaid and another 30,000 are covered by state employee plans, according to Cassar, meaning abortion procedures aren’t covered for a significant portion of the state’s population.
“Why are recipients of Medicaid being punished for being poor? Are all women equal, but some more equal than others?” one woman asked the committee. “This is the crux of the matter, a caste system for the women of Rhode Island is unacceptable.”
Those against the bill argue that taxpayers shouldn’t have to fund something they don’t believe in.
“It should not be covered by my tax dollars,” another woman said. “Yes, there are cases of abuse, rape and incest, but that’s a separate story. I really feel for people in those situations, but by in large, most cases are not that and it should not be covered by tax dollars.”
The bill, dubbed the Equality in Abortion Coverage Act, is being held for further study.