Taxpayer Funded Abortions Back On The Agenda in RI
Bill Would Fund Abortions for State Employees and Medicaid Recipients
Abortion Advocate Claims Failure to Fund Abortions with State Tax Dollars is “Discriminatory and Racist”
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“Unless an individual is able to pay the costs out of pocket or is on private insurance, these essential healthcare services are still out of reach for too many Rhode Islanders. With reproductive rights remaining under attack in our nation’s capital, the passage of the Equality in Abortion Coverage Act will provide total equality for everyone in Rhode Island who needs reproductive health services access,” she said.
Past arguments have been made for expanded abortion coverage
Gov. Dan McKee has already pledged to include money in the new state budget he proposes to lawmakers later this month for the coverage. More specifically, the Department of Administration requested $71,358 for state employee coverage, and EOHHS $375,462 for people insured under Medicaid.
The issue came up during McKee’s hard fought campaign against his anti-abortion Republican challenger Ashley Kalus.
A McKee campaign ad sought to draw this sharp line: “Unlike his opponent — who would veto a budget that includes the EACA — Governor McKee stands with Rhode Island women AND fights for them,” a spokeswoman said.
A past hearing brought a deluge of comments, including those from the Rhode Island Catholic Conference, in the most Catholic state in the nation, against the “use [of] taxpayer dollars for the objectionable practice of abortion, which ends the life of an unborn human being.”
The counter-argument from Nicole Jellinek, chair of the Rhode Island Coalition for Reproductive Freedom: “Today, state laws prohibit nearly 1 in 3 Rhode Islanders — people enrolled in Medicaid and state employees — from using their health insurance to cover abortion.
“This ban is discriminatory and racist, reinforcing inequity and health care disparities in our state,” Jellinek said.
Citing a poll conducted for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and its Southern New England affiliate, Jellinek said: “Our Coalition of more than 20 organizations stands with the 72% of Rhode Islanders who agree that Rhode Islanders with health insurance through Medicaid or the state should receive the same coverage for abortion services as those insured by private health insurers.
“We believe that medical decisions should be private between a person and their health care provider.”
What is in the legislation?
More specifically, the legislation would eliminate sections of law that expressly prohibit state employees’ and Medicaid recipients’ insurance from covering abortion procedures, except in cases of rape or incest or where the life of the mother would be endangered, as required by federal law.
In keeping with the federal Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding of abortion services, it adds language that specifies that no federal funds shall be used to pay for them, except as authorized under federal law.
Kazarian’s 43 co-sponsors so far include: Reps. Edith H. Ajello, D-Providence; Karen Alzate, D-Pawtucket; Leonela Felix, D-Pawtucket; House Majority Leader Christopher R. Blazejewski, D-Providence; Kathleen A. Fogarty, D-South Kingstown; Carol Hagan McEntee, D-South Kingstown, Narragansett; Jason Knight, D-Barrington; Joshua J. Giraldo, D-Central Falls; and Lauren H. Carson, D-Newport.
The full list was not immediately available, but more than half the members of the 75-member House have now officially signed on to the effort.
Kazarian noted: this is the only medical procedure that is carved out of the state laws regarding health insurance coverage. She called that unfair and wrong.
It is not yet clear how soon the House and the Senate will hold hearings − and potentially vote − on the legislation, if it picks up more steam than it did in election year 2022.
“There is no timeline for hearings on any piece of legislation at this point … we don’t even have committees appointed yet,” Senate spokesman Greg Pare told The Journal.
Committee appointments have not yet taken place in the House either, but House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi reaffirmed his own position on Thursday: “I am generally supportive of equal insurance coverage in health care.”