PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — With the U.S. Supreme Court poised to overturn the landmark decision that legalized abortion nationwide, two state lawmakers are urging their colleagues to help ensure that abortion procedures are covered for all Rhode Island women.
Rep. Liana Cassar and Sen. Bridget Valverde are drumming up support for the Equality in Abortion Coverage Act, which would repeal the ban on abortion coverage for state employees and Medicaid recipients.
“Rhode Island isn’t protecting reproductive rights as long as it continues to wield state funding as a weapon to prevent people from getting the health care they need,” Cassar said.
Roughly one-quarter of all Rhode Islanders are covered by Medicaid and another 30,000 are covered by state employee plans, according to Cassar and Valverde, meaning abortion procedures aren’t covered for a significant portion of the state’s population.
“Here in Rhode Island, the only appropriate response is for our leaders to stand up for our rights and get rid of our remaining restrictions on reproductive freedom,” Valverde said. “Our state’s population and leaders overwhelmingly support the right to abortion. It is unconscionable that we would continue to maintain intentional legal roadblocks that prevent people from accessing it.”
Gov. Dan McKee did not include abortion coverage in the initial budget proposal he submitted earlier this year, which is currently being considered by the R.I. House and Senate finance committees.
In order for Cassar and Valverde’s legislation to be considered, either their colleagues or McKee need to submit a budget amendment that would allocate funding for abortion coverage.
“Our nation appears poised to move a half-century backward in reproductive health care, so it’s up to us to fully protect Rhode Islanders’ safety,” Valverde said.
“It’s deeply disturbing to consider what will happen in the states where leaders have been waiting for this opportunity to eliminate access to safe abortion once again,” Cassar added. “While it’s a relief that Rhode Island is not one of those states, we’re leaving a huge segment of our population and their health care providers at risk as long as we maintain our abortion coverage bans.”
McKee reassured Rhode Islanders Monday night that the state will “always protect a woman’s right to choose.”
“We will NOT go backwards on reproductive rights,” the governor said.
The Equality in Abortion Coverage Act is currently pending before the General Assembly, according to McKee.
“I’ve been in full support of this bill and the access to reproductive health care that it guarantees for so many,” he said on Twitter Tuesday. “I urge the General Assembly to send the bill to my desk and I will proudly sign it.”
McKee has also joined a coalition of 17 governors who are calling upon Congress to take immediate action to protect reproductive rights.
“I trust women to make their own health care decisions in consultation with their health care provider,” McKee said. “Here in Rhode Island, we stand firmly in defense of a woman’s right to choose. We are grateful to have Roe v. Wade codified in state law, but Congress must take action on the federal level to protect the rights of all Americans to access reproductive health care.”
In the letter, the governors urge Congress to quickly pass legislation that will codify the rights and protections detailed in Roe v. Wade into federal law.
“Reproductive healthcare decisions are deeply personal and should be made by patients in consultation with their health care providers, not by politicians,” the letter reads. “Overturning Roe v. Wade will turn back the clock on reproductive health, and Congress must immediately take action to ensure that our nation does not go backward.”