Abortion-related services insurance coverage funds included in RI agency requests
PROVIDENCE — The McKee administration included money for state-paid insurance coverage for state workers and Medicaid recipients seeking abortions in the first round of state agency budget requests due Friday.
Legislation to remove legal barriers to state-funded coverage for abortions did not make it through the last two sessions of the General Assembly.
But “reproductive freedom for all” became a defining issue for Gov. Dan McKee — and his challengers — in the September Democratic primary, and advocates have vowed to renew the push when the lawmakers reconvene in January.
On the campaign trail: Ads roll out as abortion politics take center stage in RI races for governor, Congress
On Friday, McKee spokesman Matt Sheaff said the filings by the Department of Administration and the Executive Office of Health and Human Services “provide insurance coverage for abortion-related services for state employees and individuals enrolled in Medicaid.”
More specifically, the Department of Administration requested $71,358 for coverage for state employee coverage, and EOHHS $375,462 for people insured under Medicaid.
“While the governor and his team will be reviewing the agency submissions to develop the final proposal for January, the budget submittal to the General Assembly will include these important health services to groups who cannot access them now,” Sheaff said.
Chiming in, McKee campaign spokeswoman Alana O’Hare said: “Governor McKee has not only protected a woman’s right to choose, he has promised to strengthen those protections …
“Governor McKee has once again delivered on that promise,” she said.
It is not clear whether lawmakers who resisted passing the Equality in Abortion Coverage Act will do so when Rhode Island’s part-time legislature, on break since June, meets in 2023.
‘State-funded abortions’ remain controversial
The funded abortions" remains highly controversial” class=”link “>potential for “state-funded abortions” remains highly controversial in some corners of Rhode Island.
Despite the 2019 passage of bills enshrining the principles of the US Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling in state law, “the fact remains that the right is still pushed out of reach for many people,” the advocacy group leading the 2022 drive said in January.
“If you have money, you get a right to abortion. If you don’t and you can’t pay for it out of pocket, then your right isn’t real,” the group known as The Womxn Project said.
The opponents of efforts to protect, preserve and expand abortion rights in Rhode Island have been equally passionate.
Last year’s hearing brought a deluge of comments, including those from the Rhode Island Catholic Conference, in the most Catholic state in the nation, against the “use [of] taxpayer dollars for the objectionable practice of abortion, which ends the life of an unborn human being.”
On Thursday in a new TV ad — and on Friday in a press release — the McKee campaign sought to draw a sharp line between the governor and his Republican challenger, Ashley Kalus.
“Unlike his opponent — who would veto a budget that includes the EACA — Governor McKee stands with Rhode Island women AND fights for them,” O’Hare said.
When asked if Kalus would, in fact, veto a state budget that contained state funds for abortion coverage, her spokesman Matt Hanrahan said: “A budget with that in there would never get to her desk. If they had the votes to get it to the governor’s desk, they would have done it last session.”
He said Kalus is under the impression that 77% of Rhode Islanders do not support taxpayer-funded abortions. He was not able to cite the source of that statistics.
A poll conducted for Planned Parenthood Federation of America and its Southern New England affiliate from Aug. 5-11 found 72% of 603 registered Rhode Island voters believe that Rhode Islanders with health insurance through Medicaid or the state “should receive the same coverage for abortion services as those insured by private health insurers.”
Two-thirds supported the repeal of the state’s restrictions on abortion coverage for state employees and Medicaid recipients.
This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: Abortion-related services funds included in RI agency budget requests
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