Governor Daniel McKee signed the Equality in Abortion Coverage Act (EACA) into law Thursday (5/18/23) following a 24-12 Senate vote on the bill co-sponsored by Sen. Bridget Valverde (Dist. 35) and House Majority Whip Katherine S. Kazarian (Dist. . Valverde represents all of East Greenwich, as well as parts of North Kingstown and South Kingstown.
The EACA will provide insurance coverage for abortion care to people on Medicaid and individuals employed by the state. Previously, coverage of this kind for state employees and those on Medicaid was only available in cases of rape, incest, or when completing the pregnancy would be life-threatening for the mother.
“I don’t think that someone has to be sexually assaulted or have their life on the line in order to get access to a safe and legal healthcare service,” Valverde said. “A large percentage of victims of sexual assault do not come forward and report. If we set that bar that they have to report the assault against them to gain access – that’s wrong.”
According to a press release, roughly one-quarter of Rhode Islanders are covered by Medicaid and 30,000 are on state employee plans.
“With passage of the Equality in Abortion Coverage Act today, we will complete that work, providing genuine equality and access for everyone in Rhode Island who needs reproductive health services,” said Kazarian in a statement.
Now that the bill has become law, Rhode Island joins 16 states, including Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, and Maine, whose Medicaid programs cover abortion services.
“We don’t want to live in a community where the money you have in the bank determines if you get to have an abortion when you need one,” said Jocelyn Foye, director of The Womxn Project and organizer with the statewide Campaign for Equal Abortion Coverage.
The passing of the EACA through the Senate comes three weeks after the House passed its version of the bill on April 27 on a 49-24 vote.
“There’s been a renewed interest in making sure that Rhode Island is providing health coverage for the full range of reproductive service, which includes abortion,” Valverde said after noting the recent passing of legislation that limits abortion services by state governments across the country. She said that with the passing of the bill and the governor signing it into law, “We finally have equal access to abortion in Rhode Island.”