PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island – Rhode Island Gov. Daniel McKee signed into law a bill on Thursday that allows state funds to be used to pay for health insurance that covers state employees and beneficiaries from the Medicaid program who want to have an abortion.
The signing ceremony was held almost immediately after the state Senate approved the bill on Thursday with 24 votes in favor and 12 against, after less than an hour of debate in the Upper House.
McKee said he is proud to have signed the bill into law and to include funding for it in his proposed state budget.
“Here in Rhode Island, we will always defend a woman’s right to choose and ensure equal access to these important health services,” she said.
An identical version of the measure advanced in the Democratic-majority House of Representatives on April 27 with 49 votes in favor and 24 against.
State Sen. Bridget Valverde, one of the bill’s sponsors, said that despite a vote four years earlier by Rhode Island lawmakers to ensure the right to safe, legal abortion in the state, she had voted to help ensure access to abortion. Worked for
“For many people, this authority is illusory,” she said. “That’s because the right to healthcare is worthless if we intentionally prevent people’s health insurance from covering it.”
He said patients who are Medicaid recipients and state employees are eligible for the same access to care as those with private health insurance.
With the new law, doctors will no longer have to tell their low-income patients that their health insurance will not cover their abortions, he said.
Opponents said the state should not require local taxpayers, including those with moral objections to the procedure, to cover the cost of abortions.
Republican Sen. Jessica de la Cruz said, “For decades, there has been a general consensus that regardless of one’s opinion on the legality or appropriateness of abortion, taxpayers should not be forced or encouraged to pay for abortions.”
Supporters of the new law said about a quarter of Rhode Islanders are covered by Medicaid, and another 30,000 are covered by state employee policies.