Health Care

RI House Passes Equality in Abortion Coverage Act: A Step Towards Equitable Healthcare

The Rhode Island House of Representatives passed the Equality in Abortion Coverage Act (EACA), ensuring Medicaid and state health insurance plan coverage for abortion procedures. The bill, backed by the majority of Rhode Islanders, now moves to the State Senate, where it’s expected to pass.

Rhode Island News: RI House Passes Equality in Abortion Coverage Act: A Step Towards Equitable Healthcare

April 28, 2023, 5:46 am

By Steve Ahlquist

The Rhode House of Representatives passed the Equality in Abortion Coverage Act (EACA) on Thursday night, bucking the conservative wave seeking to outlaw a necessary medical procedure supported by the majority of Americans. The bill now needs to clear the Rhode Island State Senate before it goes to Governor Daniel McKee‘s desk where he is expected to sign the bill into law.

The vote

The legislation, H5006, ensures that individuals on Medicaid and state health insurance plans have coverage for abortion procedures and was introduced in past sessions by former Representative Liana Cassar. This session the bill was sponsored by Representative Katherine Kazarian (Democrat, District 63, East Providence), who serves as the House Majority Whip.

“While I am grateful that Rhode Island has codified Roe v. Wade into state law, access to reproductive health is still not equal in our state. Unless an individual is able to pay the costs out of pocket or is on private insurance, these essential health care 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,” said Representative Kazarian in a statement.

After the vote, Uprise RI caught up with Speaker of the House Joseph Shekarchi (Democrat, District 23, Warwick) at Lost Valley Pizza, during a fundraiser for Representative David Morales (Democrat, District 7, Providence). There, the Speaker interviewed me:

Speaker Shekarchi: You were at the Women’s Caucus meeting, right? What did I say there?

Uprise RI: You said you would bring the EACA to a floor vote before the end of April.

Speaker Shekarchi: And what’s the date?

Uprise RI: It’s not May, so I’d say you kept your promise.

You can watch the House discussion here:

EACA 2023 04 27 RI House of Representatives

Statements were released by the Rhode Island Coalition for Reproductive Freedom and the Womxn Project after the vote.

Equal access to health care, including abortion, is fundamental. Right now people who use Medicaid are being left out, creating an unequal system. We are working to change that. Today we took a big step forward as the Rhode Island House of Representatives voted in favor of the Equality in Abortion Coverage Act. We are thrilled to see this incredible move forward to help address the gaps in access to abortion care at a time when access is truly under attack,” said Jocelyn Foye, Executive Director of The Womxn Project.

The right to abortion doesn’t truly exist if people seeking care can’t afford to access it. All Rhode Islanders should have affordable health care, including when they need an abortion. That is the call to action of The Womxn Project and many other organizations and today this pursuit of health equity and bodily autonomy had a big victory with passage in the House.

Research shows that people who are denied access to abortion care are more likely to live in poverty, more likely to experience health complications like eclampsia and postpartum hemorrhage, and more likely to remain with abusive partners. Barriers to health care are rooted in white supremacy and they perpetuate racial and economic inequities. We must do more to ensure people in our state can access the abortion care they need. We are proud that we have built a strong movement to advance the EACA and address this inequity.

This bill is needed. It also has strong support. Voters support the EACA. A poll last fall found that 2/3rds of Rhode Islanders want to see this bill enacted. The majority of lawmakers agree with the House passing the EACA today and 21 Senate co-sponsors. More than 40 organizations here in Rhode Island are pushing for passage and more than a dozen national groups have joined us in urging our state leaders to get this done and halt bans on health coverage.

No matter what kind of insurance you use, you should get to control your body and plan your family and future. We are grateful to every House member who voted yes today. As the bill heads to the state Senate, we are urging them to act quickly to pass the EACA. It’s time to make sure every single person in RI has access to abortion coverage — not just the whitest and wealthiest among us. Let’s get this done this year.

We are grateful for the leadership of Whip Kazarian in moving the EACA through the House of Representatives,” said Nicole Jellinek, chair of the Rhode Island Coalition for Reproductive Freedom. “Passing this bill will have immediate impact for the nearly 100,000 Rhode Islanders whose health coverage does not include abortion, by virtue of them being on Medicaid or the State Employee Health Plan. This is a matter of access and equity. We are proud to be part of the movement to advance reproductive freedom for all Rhode Islanders.

Abortion is an essential component of health care. Like all medical matters, decisions regarding reproductive health care, including abortion care, should be made by patients in consultation with their clinicians and without undue interference by outside parties. Like all patients, individuals seeking abortion are entitled to privacy, dignity, respect, and support. The Equality in Abortion Coverage Act is critical for equitable access to abortion care for all Rhode Islanders,” said Dr. Beth Cronin, Rhode Island Section Chair of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

While politicians across the country continue to attack reproductive rights and ban abortion outright, we thank our champions in the house, including bill sponsor Whip Kazarian, who voted in support and who continue to fight to expand access to abortion care for people in Rhode Island,” said Gretchen Raffa, vice president of Public Policy, Advocacy & Organizing at Planned Parenthood Votes! Rhode Island.