Equality in Abortion Coverage Act
Halting bans on abortion coverage to protect rights & advance health equity
Passed into law, May 18, 2023
ABOUT The Equality in Abortion Coverage Act
In 2019, the Rhode Island General Assembly passed legislation to protect the right to abortion via a bill called the Reproductive Privacy Act, or the RPA. While the RPA is essential for protecting abortion rights in our state, it did not ensure that every Rhode Islander has access to this procedure. Unfortunately, there are still laws on the books that prohibit insurance coverage for Rhode Islanders on state-funded insurance, like those working in the public sector, and for Rhode Islanders on Medicaid, like lower-income individuals receiving public assistance.
We should all have access to health services that we need–regardless of our income or medical insurance–including affordable coverage for abortion. Public or private, health insurance should cover services that ensure health and care for our families.
What does the Equality in Abortion Coverage Act (EACA) bill do?
- Eliminates the policy that withholds health coverage for abortion in the state Medicaid program and associated plans.
- Halts the denial of coverage for abortion in the health plan used by state employees.
What is the impact of Rhode Island policies that take away health coverage for abortion?
Our state employee health plans cover about 32,000 Rhode Islanders, including health professionals, college professors, and students: the public servants who keep our state running, and their family members. They are all denied abortion coverage.
- Covers over 25 percent of Rhode Islanders, including 77,000 women of child-bearing age.
- Serves our lowest wage earners, people with disabilities, and current and former foster youth.
They deserve equal access to health care, including abortion. By leaving people on Medicaid out of the Reproductive Privacy Act’s protections, we have created an unequal system.
What type of out-of-pocket costs are we forcing people to incur?
The Women’s Health and Education Fund (WHEF) has stated that the average cost of an abortion in RI is $600. There are many individuals and families who simply do not have anything extra sitting around if their insurance says they won’t cover their abortion.
Research has shown that for a person struggling to get by, taking away benefits for abortion means they may have to forego paying for things like rent or groceries to afford this procedure.
This choice puts people’s health and well-being at risk–and it shouldn’t have to be this way. Decades under these archaic and discriminatory state policies have resulted in too many people and their families being pushed further into poverty as they scramble to find the money for an abortion.
How do abortion bans fuel racial and health inequity?
Women of color are overrepresented in low-wage jobs and are more likely to use the state Medicaid program, meaning that the state ban on Medicaid abortion coverage disproportionately affects them.
Black women have the highest unintended pregnancy rate of any racial or ethnic group, more than double that of non-Hispanic white women due to barriers to contraception, preventative health care, and lack of access to timely and affordable access to a range of services.
Recent research found that more than half of women of childbearing age enrolled in Medicaid have family incomes below the poverty level; one-quarter had incomes below 50 percent of the poverty level. When insurance coverage is denied, low-income people are likely to spend a third or more of their monthly income on a healthcare procedure – or are forced to forego the care. That’s what this policy means.
When did these policies go into effect?
From 1981 to 1983, Rhode Island passed several laws to take away health coverage for abortion in the state Medicaid program, for state employees, within private insurance, and through coverage provided by municipal policies.
A court held that the ban on these benefits for municipal employees was valid, but for private health insurance contracts, plans, or policies, the ban was unconstitutional and unenforceable. These two provisions were struck from state law with the passage of the RPA, but the refusal to provide coverage in Medicaid and state employee plans remains in effect.
Do voters support repealing these restrictions?
More than three-quarters of voters support state (78 percent) funding for reproductive health services for lower-income women. In fact, there is broad consensus on support for abortion coverage across party lines and faith traditions.
Today, Rhode Island law treats the right to abortion according to two different standards: whether you can afford to pay out of pocket or with private healthcare for your rights, or not at all. That is not equality. And it is not ok.
Repealing these restrictions will not ensure full equality for poor women and women of color. But passing the EACA is a necessary first step. Anyone who cares about fighting racism and poverty must realize that attacks on abortion—and especially on abortion coverage—are first and foremost attacks on poor women and women of color.
With Roe v Wade overturned, what does it mean for ?
Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey are the two landmark Supreme Court cases that protected the right to abortion in the United States for 49 years. The Supreme Court turned down Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in June 24, 2022, a case that came out of Mississippi that examined “whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional.” Based on the conservative leanings of the court, this decision was the end of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey which gut protections for abortion access across the nation.
Because Rhode Island passed the Reproductive Privacy Act in 2019, abortion is legal in Rhode Island. This means that individuals who can afford an abortion, either through private insurance coverage or out-of-pocket payment, will have access to an abortion. However, despite the legality of this procedure in Rhode Island, individuals on Medicaid or state-funded insurance will not be able to access abortion through their health insurance.
Outreach and News
Press Release: January 19, 2023
Advocates Commend Governor for a Budget that Protects Abortion Access
Press Release: December 6, 2022
Groups from Across RI Come Together to Urge Action on EACA in 2023
Press Release: June 30, 2022
Advocates Urging Action for Abortion Access (more than a dozen RI groups)
Updated: May 17, 2022
Information Sheet on the Equal Abortion Coverage Campaign and the Equality in Abortion Coverage Act
Downloadable One Sheet (.pdf)
EACA Campaign Members
ACLU of Rhode Island
Alpert Medical School Medical Students For Choice
American Academy of Pediatrics, Rhode Island Chapter
Amnesty International, RI Chapter
Black Lives Matter, PAC
Brown College Democrats
Brown University’s Department of Family Medicine
The College Dems of Rhode Island
The College Democrats at Roger Williams
Economic Progress Institute
GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders
Haus of Codec
House of Hope CDC
Latino Policy Institute
LBGTQ Action RI
League of Women Voters, RI Chapter
OLOC-RI- Old Lesbians Organizing for Change
Party for Socialism and Liberation
Physicians for a National Health Program – RI Chapter
Pride in Aging, Rhode Island
Providence Democratic Socialists of America
Reproductive Health Access Project RI
Rhode Island Academy of Family Physicians
Rhode Island American College of Physicians
Rhode Island Atheists
Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Rhode Island Democratic Women’s Caucus
Rhode Island Medical Society
Rhode Island National Organization for Women (RI NOW)
Rhode Island Queer Political Action Committee
Rhode Island Working Families Party
RIOT RI (Formerly Girls Rock! RI)
South County Huddle
The Womxn Project
Unitarian Universalist Church of South County- Social Justice Team
Women’s Fund of Rhode Island
Women and Infants Hospital
Youth Pride, Rhode Island
Past Senate & House Bill Sponsors
2023 EACA Senate Sponsors
2023 EACA House Sponsors
Carol Hagan McEntee
Mary Ann Shallcross Smith