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PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island Gov. Daniel McKee on Thursday signed a bill allowing state funds to be used to pay for health insurance plans for state employees and Medicaid recipients who want abortions.
The signing ceremony came shortly after the state Senate approved the bill in a 24-12 vote on Thursday after less than an hour of debate on the floor.
McKee, a Democrat, said he was proud to have signed the bill and included the related funds in the state budget.
“Here in Rhode Island, we will always protect women’s right to choose and ensure equal access to these vital health services,” she said.
The same version of the bill that passed passed the Democratic-controlled House on April 27 by a vote of 49 to 24.
Democratic state senator Brigitte Valverde, one of the bill’s sponsors, said she would not go to abortion despite a vote in the Rhode Island legislature four years ago enshrining the right to have a safe and legal abortion. Efforts to guarantee access to
“For so many people, rights remain an illusion,” she says. “If people intentionally prevent their health insurance coverage, their right to health care becomes meaningless.”
Medicaid patients and state employees are entitled to the same care as people with private health plans, she said.
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He added that the new law will eliminate the need for doctors to tell low-income patients that health insurance does not cover abortions.
Opponents argued that states should not require state taxpayers, including those morally opposed to abortions, to pay for abortions.
Republican Senator Jessica De La Cruz has said that for decades, taxpayers should not be forced or encouraged to pay for abortions, regardless of their views on the legality and appropriateness of abortions. The consensus has been maintained,” he said.
About a quarter of Rhode Islanders are covered by Medicaid, and another 30,000 are covered by the state employee system, proponents of the new law say. They had to pay the full cost of the abortion out of their own pocket.
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McKee’s fiscal 2024 budget includes funding to add abortion coverage to Rhode Island’s Medicaid program and state employee coverage, which is expected to cost $622,000.
The measure would repeal a provision in state law that prohibited Rhode Island from including a provision covering abortions in health insurance contracts with state employees. Current law exempts cases where the mother’s life is endangered if the fetus reaches term, or where the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.
Other critics, including Democratic House Labor Committee Chairman Arthur Kolves, argue that rape, incest, and maternal health are not the same as unplanned terminations. says that it is
Rhode Island’s bill follows a pattern that has emerged in most states’ first legislative sessions since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Republicans are moving to tighten abortion laws, while Democratic-majority states are moving to protect access for their own residents and those from other states seeking care.
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