My name is Tammy Brown. Now more than ever we need a society that leads with compassion and puts science and our families’ health, safety, and real-life needs first. As we’ve seen during this pandemic, people of color face more risks and bigger gaps when it comes to health care. The story is no different when it comes to abortion care. The policies that we have in place in Rhode Island that take away health coverage for abortion for state employees and for people who use Medicaid cause harm and further exacerbate health disparities. That’s why I am here to strongly support S267, which gets rid of these bans.
Women of color are overrepresented in low wage jobs and more likely to use the state Medicaid program to get their healthcare. This means the state ban on Medicaid coverage for abortion falls hardest on women of color and takes away our right to make our own health decisions. We are standing by as a policy tells state employees and low-income Rhode Islanders that 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.
I have read stories about people being told their insurance won’t cover their abortion and they ask friends and family. They forego paying rent. People have tried to sell their care or used grocery money. Is that the kind of community we want to create – where people have to scramble and are pushed further into debt to get a health care procedure? I sure don’t.
I believe that lawmakers have a role in figuring out how to deal with the big problems and more than ever in a time when people are struggling to make ends meet and Black and Brown people are hurt most of all, we need to do more to eliminate barriers to health services.
Research has shown that the more abortion restrictions a state has, the worse women and children’s health outcomes in the state are. This study shows that women’s health and well-being is harmed by these policies. If we truly want to support women and families, there are many policies we can advance. This is one of them.
In a health and economic crisis, people of color face disproportionate burdens because our systems aren’t designed to treat everyone equally. Quite the opposite. Everyone deserves to have accessible, effective health care, including abortion care. As we grapple with huge questions around racial and health equity, this is a step we can take.
Our state law treats the right to abortion according to two different standards: whether you can afford to pay for your rights or not. That is not equality. And it is not ok.
Repealing these restrictions will not, by itself, ensure full equality for poor women and women of color. But doing so is a necessary precondition. 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.
I urge you to support S267. In a crisis, the people that have the least, hurt the most. Everyone deserves to have accessible, effective health care, including abortion care. Please, vote yes on this important bill. Thank you.
Contact: Tammy Brown 401-400-0061