Activist groups urge McKee to sign executive order

PROVIDENCE — More than 20 advocacy groups — from the League of Women Voters to Black Lives Matter Rhode Island PAC to Amnesty International — are urging Gov. Dan McKee to take the next step to guarantee access to an abortion in Rhode Island.

The groups are calling on McKee to pass an executive order that would do what Rhode Island lawmakers refused to do this election year: repeal the law banning federally funded abortion insurance for state employees and Medicaid recipients.

It’s not yet clear if McKee is ready or if he believes he has the legal authority to do so.

But stakeholders insisted he do it in an open letter to him this week.

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To support their case, they cited several executive orders McKee and his predecessor, Democrat Gina Raimondo, issued during the pandemic, including one that barred insurance carriers from restricting the delivery of telehealth services.

McKee spokesman Matt Sheaff issued the statement in response to a Journal inquiry about his stance: “The governor remains fully supportive of the Equality in Abortion Coverage Act, which would protect access to reproductive health care, and we are reviewing that motion. ”

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The coalition includes the Latino Policy Institute, the Rhode Island Academy of Family Physicians, RI NOW, the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and the Rhode Island Democratic Women’s Caucus, among others.

The groups thanked McKee for issuing an executive order earlier this month directing state agencies not to cooperate with investigations launched by other states of Rhode Islanders helping someone get an abortion.

The order came in response to the US Supreme Court ruling last month in Roe v. Wade, which protected abortion rights, and reversed subsequent moves by states across the country to severely limit or ban abortion.

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“We are grateful that the governor has heeded the call to action to protect people who are performing or requesting abortions and those who support people in receiving care from being harmed by other states’ laws that require it.” aim to criminalize nursing,” the RI Coalition said in a statement. “This was an important step.”

But he must “do more to ensure access to abortion at this critical moment,” the group said.

Specifically, the groups asked McKee to sign a second executive order directing the state employee health plan and state Medicaid program to include medical insurance for abortions.

“Given that we currently have a system in this state where individuals with private insurance cover a health benefit protected by state law, but those who use public benefits do not, this seems to be another point in time to address parity and timely access to needed care,” they wrote.

During the session, which ended in June, legislation to overturn the ban was introduced to the House and Senate, but it died for lack of action.

“This coverage has been shown to be cost neutral, so there is no economic reason to withhold these benefits – and as has been found in many cases, removing coverage for abortions is very damaging,” the groups argued.

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The group cited the finding of a recent study that “people who were rejected and gave birth later experienced an increase in household poverty lasting at least four years compared to those who received an abortion.

“People who are discouraged from having an abortion are [also] more likely to stay in contact with a violent partner. They’re also more likely to raise the resulting child alone,” according to the study by Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health, based at the University of California, San Francisco.

“Don’t tell us to wait for next year,” the coalition wrote. “No more waiting. It’s time to end health insurance bans and focus public health programs squarely on abortion coverage. We urgently need to act as if our lives depended on it, because they do.”

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