PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Advocates lobbied lawmakers Monday afternoon in support and opposition of a recently introduced abortion bill.
The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing for the Equality in Abortion Coverage Act (EACA) which would allow state employees and Medicaid beneficiaries to receive coverage for abortions.
Abortion rights advocates, lawmakers and doctors spoke in favor of the EACA, saying it would address a health equity issue.
“By not passing this legislation, we are saying that people in Rhode Island have a right to reproductive care and privacy only if they can pay for it,” House Majority Whip Katherine Kazarian, the bill’s sponsor, said. “No patient that is insured should have to rely on a GoFundMe or scrounging up dollars in order to get a medical procedure done.”
The EACA was reintroduced in January after it didn’t get a floor vote in either chamber during the last legislative session. House Speaker Joe Shekarchi and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio vowed to consider the measure again this year.
Anti-abortion groups also brought witnesses to the hearing, arguing they don’t want tax dollars being used to support a practice they believe is immoral.
“There are a myriad of issues in which American taxpayers pay taxes toward institutions that they do not agree with,” Secretary of State Gregg Amore said, knocking the claim. “The military and public education would be two that I agree with.”
Federal spending also includes Social Security, Medicare, and veterans benefits.
12 News obtained a copy of the Rhode Island Right to Life’s testimony, in which the group argued the EACA would fund “killings.”
“For you to advance this bill is actually worse than using your own credit card to pay for these abortions because you are using money forcibly taken from people who deeply object to these killings,” Executive Director Barth Bracy said in his testimony.
Lisa Cooley, coordinator of the Diocese of Providence’s Office of Life and Family Ministry, said the bill is a moral test for Rhode Island and the government should instead give mothers resources like housing, unemployment, and prenatal and child care.
“Medicaid should not be used for elective abortions since they are not medically necessary,” Cooley claimed.
Abortion can be medically necessary to save a patient’s life or preserve their health, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
“The bill removes this inequitable barrier and provides access to reproductive health care for Medicaid recipients and state employees,” Gov. Dan McKee said in a statement Monday.
Abortion was codified into state law in 2019 under then-Gov. Gina Raimondo.
The EACA was also introduced this legislative session in the Senate but no hearings have been scheduled yet, according to Senate Spokesperson Greg Pare.
“The Senate President is open-minded on the issue,” Pare wrote in a statement.
Kazarian said she hopes the EACA will soon be brought to a vote on the House floor.