Health Care

On first day of session, advocates steer focus to equal abortion rights

Reproductive rights volunteers and allies from The Womxn Project urged the members of the Rhode Island General Assembly to take quick action and pass the Equality in Abortion Coverage Act (EACA) yesterday as the House and Senate began their 2023 legislative session.

Published on January 4, 2023
By Steve Ahlquist

Reproductive rights volunteers and allies from The Womxn Project urged the members of the Rhode Island General Assembly to take quick action and pass the Equality in Abortion Coverage Act (EACA) yesterday as the House and Senate began their 2023 legislative session. Last year the General Assembly ended their session without seriously considering the EACA legislation, and on the very next day, the United States Supreme Court issued their decision overturning Roe v. Wade, their 1973 decision protecting the right to an abortion.

Womxn Project volunteers hold signs outside the open doors of the RI Senate Chamber. The doors to the House Chamber remained closed.

In 2019, the Rhode Island General Assembly passed, and then-Governor Gina Raimondo quickly signed into law, legislation to protect the right to abortion, effectively securing the protections of Roe into state law. However, Rhode Island still has laws on the books that limit a person’s access to abortion. The EACA rectifies this inequity by,

  1. Eliminating the policy that withholds health coverage for abortion in the state Medicaid program and associated plans; and,
  2. Halting the denial of coverage for abortion in the health plan used by state employees.

It is estimated that the state health program covers about 32,000 Rhode Islanders, including health professionals, college professors and students. Medicaid covers over 25% of Rhode Islanders, including 77,000 people of children-bearing age. Medicaid also serves our lowest wage earners, people with disabilities, and current and former foster youth.

Womxn Project volunteers in the State house rotunda

The Womxn Project’s action at the State House was quiet, a gentle reminder that, in the aftermath of the overturning of Roe last year, both Speaker of the House Joseph Shekarchi and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio have made comments in support of passing the EACA. On the campaign trail Governor Daniel McKee joined his Democratic challengers in saying that he would prioritize the passage of the EACA this year.

Jocelyn Foye, Executive Director of The Womxn Project, explains the action to volunteers

In a statement, The Womxn Project writes,

As a new legislative session begins, we look forward to the opportunity to work with our state’s leaders to address the complex issues facing Rhode Island and to push for positive change.  We are committed to ensuring that lawmakers stand with women and families by advancing policies to achieve reproductive, racial and economic justice. Every person in our state should be able to make personal decisions, have access to affordable health services and maintain our bodily autonomy. We should be able to not just get by, but thrive. We must do all we can, so that no one is denied the opportunity to be healthy and live with dignity. That is our demand and that is what we commit to at the start of this new session.

We must immediately and swiftly pass the Equality in Abortion Coverage Act to make sure the right we worked hard to pass is not taken away from people based on how much money they have or the type of insurance they use to get their healthcare. It is not our place to impose our personal beliefs on someone else or to meddle with decisions about pregnancy, parenting and abortion. That is what abortion bans do. They are harmful, discriminatory and just plain wrong. No more delays. Let’s pass the EACA this year! 

Self-determination and the ability to be a parent when we are ready should not be a privilege. It should be a right. We are committed to doing all we can to help close gaps in access to the range of care people need to plan their families and manage their health, as well as efforts to support low-income families. 

Too many people in our state are living in poverty due to wage disparities, a lack of paid leave or living wages, as well as inadequate access to education and employment opportunities. We will continue to organize with our partners to help create and secure policies and programs to ensure financial stability and economic justice. Part of that call to action is to build on efforts to protect voting rights and remove barriers to the ballot to ensure we all have a voice in the systems that impact our health and lives.

The Womxn Project, our board and volunteers, are committed to fighting for our right to build the futures we dream of and we’re going to keep fighting until that right is a reality for all!  We are showing up today at the State House and we will keep showing up. We are certain that our voice, our vision and our leadership will continue to be critical in the 2023 legislative session and beyond.

Womxn Project volunteers also stood outside the Rhode Island Convention Center during the inauguration of Governor Daniel McKee.

Also at the General Assembly yesterday was Gretchen Raffa, Vice President of Public Policy, Advocacy and Organizing at Planned Parenthood Votes! Rhode Island, lobbying to pass the EACA, and Barth Bracy of the Rhode Island State Right to Life Committee, lobbying to deny abortion rights to Rhode Islanders.

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Coverage of the EACA last year on Uprise RI:

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