Today, Rhode Island law prohibits over 330,000 residents (nearly 1 in 3) from using their health insurance to cover abortion. This is unacceptable.
The Equality in Abortion Coverage Act of 2021 will add coverage of abortion to our state Medicaid program, which covers over 315,000 Rhode Island residents, and eliminate harmful laws that prevent people enrolled in Medicaid and more than 17,000 state employees (and their dependents) from using their insurance to cover abortion.
This is a matter of fairness, equity, and justice.
The right to abortion is meaningless if you don't have access to affordable sexual and reproductive health care.
These restrictions impact people of color and people with low incomes the hardest. No one should be denied coverage for abortion because of who they are, where they work, or how much money they make.
Why We Need This Bill
- For 45 years, Rhode Island has discriminated against low-income residents by refusing to cover abortion in our state Medicaid program. The Hyde Amendment, passed by the U.S. Congress in 1976, prohibits the use of federal funds for abortion in most circumstances.
- In 1993, Rhode Island specifically prohibited abortion in our state Medicaid program.
- In 1981, the state passed a law prohibiting the state employee health insurance from covering abortion—impacting more than 15,000 state employees (at the time) and their families.
- These laws promote discrimination. When we put politics over patients, it is people of color and those with the fewest resources who pay the highest price
- Abortion bans disproportionally impact people with low incomes and people of color and makes it harder for Rhode Island residents to make private medical decisions, control their bodies, and determine their futures.
Rhode Island laws should not discriminate! We must make it possible for all Rhode Islanders to use their health insurance to cover abortion and essential sexual and reproductive health care. Existing state laws are yet another attempt to deny residents their sexual and reproductive rights.
The majority of states do not prohibit public employees from having health insurance that includes safe, legal abortion. Right now, our ban on state employee coverage means we stand with states like Mississippi, Texas and Utah.
Rhode Island must join the 16 other states that cover abortion through their Medicaid programs, including our neighbors Connecticut and Massachusetts. In fact, just last year Maine passed a law to add abortion to their Medicaid program. If Maine can do it, so can Rhode Island!
We value autonomy, health, equity, and access. That’s why we need to pass the Equality in Abortion Coverage Act of 2021.
- Autonomy – we respect everyone’s individual decisions and reproductive freedom
- Health – everyone should have access to safe, affordable care—abortion is health care, and health care is a human right
- Equity – access to care shouldn’t depend on where you work or how much money you make
- Access – having a legal right doesn’t mean much when you still face barriers. Abortion is legal, but for many — especially those struggling to make ends meet — it’s still out of reach