By Britney Dixon, Tyger Allen and Natalie Almeida
Sept. 11, 2018
BRISTOL, R.I. — As the smallest state in the country, Rhode Island ranks sixth in the nation for those without health care coverage. The 4.3 percent of Rhode Islanders without coverage face a big issue that is common within most Health Care plans – reproductive freedom.
One major topic of debate between the state’s gubernatorial candidates is reproductive rights. A candidate’s stance could very well impact who they receive votes from, and while many can make promises, only few can act.
For Incumbent Governor Gina Raimondo, her actions surrounding those rights have been heavily questioned. Recently, Raimondo has been against the president’s pro-life stance on abortion. When she won the senate race in 2015, the Democratic candidate was pro-choice.
Soon after her victory, she began to sign bills that leaned toward a pro-life mentality, like the Rhode Island Appropriations Bill for 2016, as it was reported by Rewire News. The bill, signed by Raimondo in 2015, meant that around 9,000 Rhode Islanders lost coverage of abortion.
According to the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (NARAL), a pro-choice organization, Rhode Island scored an “F” grade and is labeled as a ‘severely restricted’ state when it comes to reproductive rights. NARAL provides a statistic from the Guttmacher Institute that 36 percent of Rhode Island women live in counties without an abortion clinic.
Raimondo’s Democratic challenger, Matt Brown, is using events from Raimondo’s tenure to sway voters from their party toward his campaign. His campaign brings up instances where Raimondo has left democratic Rhode Islanders upset, like when Raimondo signed what the American Civil Liberties Union describes as the “first anti-abortion legislation enacted in Rhode Island in over 15 years.”
“Matt Brown will use all means available to pass the Reproductive Health Care Act,” said Ron Knox, Brown’s campaign spokesperson. “He will be a governor who will take on the Trump-Pence administration’s anti-women, anti-choice attacks and fight not just to protect reproductive freedom in Rhode Island, but to expand it.”
The Republican favorite, Allan Fung, has not been public with his view of reproductive rights. According to a report by the Providence Journal, Fung was questioned on whether he would sign the Reproductive Health Care Act. Fung declined to comment.
It was also reported that in Fung’s past campaign to be Rhode Island governor in 2014, he was publically pro-choice. However, he appears to have changed his stance since then, stating for the Providence Journal in June of this year that late-term abortions are a “disgusting practice”.
For college-aged Rhode Islanders, a coverage plan isn’t just about abortions. Access to contraceptives is an important part of a reproductive health care plan. And those, according to 21-year-old North Kingston native Morgan McVay, are a fairly simple find.
“I scheduled an appointment with my gynecologist and we discussed my birth control options,” said McVay. “She was very pro-birth control and within a month I had the [intrauterine device] inserted. My Blue Cross insurance covered the visit and product.”
While McVay had no problems obtaining her contraceptives, Rhode Islanders still have more restrictions in their rights than neighboring states. In Connecticut and Massachusetts, the parent of a minor does not need to consent before any action is taken. However, in Rhode Island, it is illegal to proceed without parental consent.
According to a WPRI poll, 49 percent of voters support the signing of the Reproductive Health Care Act. Those votes were in the majority, as 32 percent were opposed to it. That left 18 percent of voters polled who were unsure if they supported or opposed it.
As of May 1, 2018, Rhode Islanders’ insurance covering abortion was limited to only a few specific scenarios.
The worry for some, including chairwoman of the Rhode Island Democratic Party Women’s Caucus Sulina Mohanty, is that the decision will ultimately be made by the Supreme Court, five or six of which (depending on if Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed), are men. Until the verdict is final, women will continue to fight for their rights, not only in Rhode Island, but nationwide.