Finance Committee hears bill that seeks to use taxpayer funding for abortions, repeal coverage exclusion for state health plans


PROVIDENCE — On Thursday, May 19, the Rhode Island House Committee on Finance met to discuss Bill H-7442: “An Act Relating to State Affairs and Government — Healthcare for Children and Pregnant Women — Equality in Abortion Coverage.”
The bill, sponsored by Democratic Representatives Liana Cassar, Edith Ajello, Robert Craven, Katherine Kazarian, Christopher Blazejewski, Jason Knight, Karen Alzate, Nathan Biah, Michelle McGaw and Susan Donovan, proposes to expand upon taxpayer-funded Medicaid to cover “prenatal, delivery and postpartum care,” including abortion coverage. It would also repeal the abortion coverage exclusion for state employee insurance plans.
The bill justifies the inclusion of abortion as one of the forms of prenatal care covered by Medicaid as it will expand abortion access to those of limited financial means, particularly immigrants, people of color, and the young.
Barth Bracy, the executive director of Rhode Island Right to Life, attended the hearing on HB-7442.
“It’s an awful bill,” Bracy told Rhode Island Catholic. “It’s unconscionable that they want to force objecting Rhode Island taxpayers to pay, with their tax dollars, for the taking of an innocent human life. It’s absolutely abominable that they’re even considering a bill like this, and I hope and I pray that they reconsider and don’t pass this bill.”
Bracy said that three years ago the legislature approved abortion for virtually any reason right up until the moment of birth.
“Less than three years later, they’re coming back and saying, ‘Oh, now we want you to pay for it.’ It’s unconscionable. What’ll they do if they get this? Maybe they’ll want after-birth abortions like people in Virginia and California are talking about now.”
Father Bernard A. Healey, the director of the Rhode Island Catholic Conference, submitted written testimony on behalf of the diocese in response to the Bill.
“The Conference opposes House Bill No. 7442 because it would use taxpayer dollars for the objectionable practice of abortion, which ends the life of an unborn human being,” Father Healey said in his testimony. “We advocate the R.I. General Assembly instead direct the expenditure of these monies toward producing healthy birth outcomes and providing income security to decrease the perceived need for abortions.”
He said that the Catholic Church firmly believes in the dignity of human life from conception to natural death, including that of all unborn children.
“This bill would be a step in the wrong direction in protecting unborn children and their mothers from the violence of abortion,” Father Healey said.
“A ‘moral test’ of our state government is how we choose to support economically poor pregnant women and their unborn children. Enabling tax dollars to support abortion is an abject failure of such a test.”
Lisa Cooley, coordinator of the Office of Life and Family Ministry for the Diocese of Providence, was in attendance praying that the bill would not advance any further in the Legislature.
“I believe definitely that the pro-abortion side is trying to strip away, little by little, all our conscience rights,” Cooley said. “And this bill in particular will force people to pay for abortion against their moral conscience views. And it goes against the common good.”
During the hearing, Rep. Cassar, the main sponsor of the bill, stated that bans on abortion in Medicaid and State insurance plans represent “an invasion of privacy and an infringement on personal liberty,” as it equates to the government dictating whether or not a woman should become a mother.
Both pro-life and pro-choice activists gathered at the State House to show their support for or against the bill.

Jess and Stacy, two pro-life supporters representing the Rhode Island Freedom Fighters, voiced their opposition to Cassar’s bill.
“I don’t think anyone should have to pay for someone else’s abortion,” said Jess.
“I’m a registered nurse, and in no other medical procedure that’s elective do you expect taxpayer dollars to pay for it,” said Stacy.
Another pro-life activist, Charles, noted that this was the first time he personally or directly partook in any pro-life activism.
“Honestly, I’ve just prayed. This is the first event I’ve actually come out to,” he noted. “I’ve signed lots of petitions, I’ve written to my congressman,” he said, but went on to note how he currently believes that such forms of activism are no longer enough.
“We are living in unprecedented times,” Charles went on to say, stating that abortion is “a heinous evil in the sight of God.”
Jeann Lugo, a candidate for lieutenant governor who gathered with the pro-life activists, said that there are many issues with the bill.
“One is it goes against the Constitution of Rhode Island. Article 1 section 2 states that abortion is not allowed in the State of Rhode Island.”
“You’re essentially forcing an individual to pay their money, which should go to the schools, the city, the roads, and using it immorally, against something I truly do not believe in.”
Bracy said that people need to make their voices heard in order to defeat this bill and others that could surely follow.
“If pro-life people around the State or Rhode Island don’t get involved, voting for pro-life candidates, running for office, and making their voices heard here at the State House, then taxpayer funding for abortion will eventually become a reality, and even much worse.”
The Finance Committee hearing ended with a vote to hold the bill for further study.


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