Gorbea calls on McKee for abortion coverage in RI . expand

RI SECRETARY OF STATE and governor candidate Nellie M. Gorbea on Tuesday urged Governor Daniel J. McKee to enact the Abortion Equality Coverage Act into law. / PBN PHOTO/JACQUELYN VOGHEL

PROVISION – As Governor Daniel J. McKee faces mounting pressure to expand state insurance coverage for abortion, governor candidate and secretary of state Nellie M. Gorbea on Tuesday called on the governor to reconvene the General Assembly to pass the Coverage Act. of equality in abortion.

The legislation, which proponents have affirmed with renewed urgency since the lead-up to the US Supreme Court’s overturn of Roe v. Wade, would extend abortion coverage to Rhode Island residents with Medicaid and state health insurance plans.

Members of the nonprofit Womxn Project had previously called on McKee to refuse to sign the fiscal 2023 budget without adding an amendment to include the law, and protested when McKee signed the budget, without the Equality in Abortion Coverage Act. , in June.

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Nearly 40 organizations, including the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island and the ACLU of Rhode Island, have joined the Womxn project in this requirement.

But McKee’s response to lawyers’ demands, including a letter sent to the governor last week, was “crickets,” Gorbea said.

McKee’s office said the governor “continues to fully support the Abortion Equality Coverage Act,” but does not have the legal authority to sign an executive order.

“State law expressly prohibits the state from purchasing insurance plans that cover induced abortions,” said McKee spokesman Matt Sheaff. “This express prohibition cannot be reversed by EO; the General Assembly must pass a law that reverses it.”

Gorbea declined to say whether she believes McKee has the legal authority to enact the legislation through executive order, but said the governor has “the power to negotiate and direct” and to back the General Assembly. call for further action.

“There is no cookie-cutter approach” to passing the legislation, Gorbea said when asked about the process McKee must follow.

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A spokesman for McKee said the governor is “in active talks with the General Assembly about passing this bill as one of the first actions when they come back into session, whether that be in the fall or January.”

But Gorbea said McKee “has shown no enthusiasm or leadership” in protecting abortion or enacting the Equality in Abortion Coverage Act, and called on other gubernatorial candidates to urge McKee to take action.

Gorbea was joined by Rep. Karen Alzate, D-Pawtucket, and Dr. Pablo Rodriguez, the former medical director of Planned Parenthood of Rhode Island. According to the organization, one in four residents may be affected by the state’s coverage gap.

“A right that can’t be exercised because you can’t afford it is not a right,” Gorbea said.

Responding to Gorbea’s comments, McKee’s campaign said the current Secretary of State was “trying to make headlines in the thick of a political campaign.

“For Gov. McKee, women’s reproductive rights are not about politics or grandeur, it’s about protecting women and their health care decisions,” campaign spokesman Alana O’Hare said. “While he is governor, those rights will always be protected.”

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O’Hare also said McKee was “proud to sign an executive order that further enshrines reproductive rights in Rhode Island,” referring to an order issued by McKee earlier this month that provides legal protections to individuals who come to Rhode Island to seek medical attention. to commit an abortion.

(SUBS 14th paragraph to clarify comment is from McKee’s campaign; minor edits.)

Jacquelyn Voghel is a PBN staff writer. You can reach her at [email protected]

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