The first week of the 2018 General Assembly has concluded, and several legislators have presented the women of Rhode Island with mixed messages:
Senate President Dominick Ruggerio started the session by saying that his top priorities include protecting the ACA and ensuring equal pay for women. Senator Ruggerio went on to highlight that RI women make 82 cents for every dollar a man is paid and encouraged the General Assembly to work together to pass Senator Gayle Goldin’s bill, the goal of which is equal pay for equal work. This seems like a step in the right direction for women: A step towards equality and autonomy.
On the House side, House Majority Leader Joseph Shekarchi introduced legislation that would ensure that mastectomy patients have insurance coverage for all costs related to their surgery. Rep Shekarchi stated that this legislation will be a top priority for him. “This is for all women, and all Rhode Islanders, because we all know someone who has had to fight breast cancer. One in eight women is diagnosed with it in her lifetime, making it the most common form of cancer among women. No women – or man – who has to go through breast cancer and a mastectomy should also be burdened with high medical bills as a result,” said Leader Shekarchi. This also seems like a step in the right direction.
However, despite the positive tone set by Senate President Ruggerio and Rep. Shekarchi, we have a group of democrats in-name-only, sponsoring legislation that reads as if it were a republican anti-woman and anti-choice bill. Deputy Majority Leader Corvese, House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chair Azzinaro, Representative Ucci, Deputy Majority Leader Rep. William O’Brien , and Deputy Majority Leader Costantino are the top five sponsors of legislation called “The Rhode Island Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act.” The legislation undermines the protections of Roe v. Wade and works to undermine the precarious right to abortion in our state. These five men are all part of Speaker Mattiello’s Leadership in the Rhode Island House and all members of the RI Democratic Party, the platform of which calls for protecting Roe v. Wade. These five male “Democrats” are doing exactly the opposite: endorsing a bill that works to undermine and chip away at the freedom to make medical decisions a Rhode Islander can make about her own body.
I just have to wonder how many of their constituents know that these five men want to take health care away from 51% of Rhode Islanders? How many of their constituents know they want to take away women’s bodily autonomy and ability to make choices on their own? And, because the online bill tracking software allows the public to only see the top five sponsors of any bill, it is also a troubling worry to wonder how many more of our representatives are supporting this bill unbeknownst to us? Could your “Democratic” elected official be a silent supporter of this, too?
At the end of week one, I would like to say thank you to President Ruggerio and Leader Shekarchi, but I would also like to ask you, my fellow RI voters, to call Representatives Corvese, Azzinaro, Ucci, O’Brien, and Costantino and ask them to start fighting for the democratic values they were elected to uphold: bodily autonomy for all.