Health Care

Rhode Island urged to pass the Equality in Abortion Coverage Act now

“Anyone who cares about fighting racism and poverty must realize that attacks on abortion and abortion coverage are first and foremost attacks on port women and women of color,” said Dr. Ogechukwu “Oge” Uwanaka, a Medical Practitioner and abortion provider.
Photo for Rhode Island urged to pass the Equality in Abortion Coverage Act now

Published on January 10, 2022
By Steve Ahlquist

When the Reproductive Privacy Act was passed in 2019, it not only guaranteed a person’s right to abortion in Rhode Island, it also “included the removal of limits on private coverage for abortion that had been unenforced but remained on the books here in Rhode Island,” said Jocelyn Foye, director of the The Womxn Project. “However, that same kind of denial of health benefits for abortion is continuing for state employees as well as people who use Medicaid. This is an unfair and targeted attack on people’s ability to get an abortion simply because of the type of insurance they have.

“We don’t want to live in a state where the money you have in your bank account determines whether you can access health care or not,” said Foye.

Currently, Rhode Island prevents insurers from paying for abortion coverage under the state’s health care plan- which affects about 3000 state employees – and recipients of Medicaid – which affects mostly poor people, disabled people and people of color. Foye’s comments came during an online forum to discuss efforts to repeal these bans.

The Equality in Abortion Coverage Act (EACA) (H5787/S0267) seeks to deal with this discriminatory practice by providing for “abortion coverage in the Medicaid program and repeal[ing] the abortion coverage exclusion for state employee insurance plans.” [If you are interested in helping to repeal these bans, contact The Womxn Project here.]

“Abortion care is health care, and that is not something I can mince words about, especially in my field,” said Dr. OgechukwuOgeUwanaka, a Medical Practitioner and abortion provider. “I see the impacts that denying health benefits on our patients when patients are choosing between paying rent or going to get groceries due to a health service that they may have to pay out of pocket.”

“Repealing these restrictions will not by itself ensure full equality and equity for poor women and people of color, but doing so is a necessary precondition,” continued Dr. Uwanaka. “Anyone who cares about fighting racism and poverty must realize that attacks on abortion and abortion coverage are first and foremost attacks on port women and women of color.”

Passing this bill is essential to ensuring women’s “economic and social stability,” said Representative Liana Cassar (Democrat, District 66, Barrington, East Providence), who is sponsoring the bill in the House. “This legislation is about equity. We all assume there’s fair treatment under the law. We all know that something isn’t a real right if only certain people can access it. And right now our laws don’t treat the individuals on Medicaid and the individuals on our state’s health care plans equally when it comes to access to abortion.”

“Passing the EACA this year will end decades of discrimination against public servants, their families, and people served by Medicaid,” said Senator Bridget Valverde (Democrat, District 35, East Greenwich, North Kingstown, South Kingstown, Narragansett). “Abortion care can cost hundreds of dollars or more, and people should be able to get care in a timely fashion using their health coverage.

“These bans were put in place deliberately to discriminate against people that could be controlled. And we have to stope making it so hard on people.”

Senator Valverde, Representative Cassar and supporters have urged Governor Daniel McKee to include the repeal of these bans in his budget proposal that will be presented to the General Assembly in the next few weeks.

Rhode Island’s neighboring states, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and New York do not have these restrictions. “Rhode Island is a discriminatory outlier,” said Senator Valverde. “And it has to end.”

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