RI Senate Agrees Abortion Is Not Health Care – Uprise RI
At the meeting on Tuesday evening Rhode Island Senate, Senator Bridget Valverde (District 35, North Kingstown, Narragansett) went to the lectern and informed the Senate President that she would object to his decision S0267, an invoice about Medicaid and abortion, for Judiciary Committee of the Senate instead of Senate of Health and Social Services (HHS) Committee where it belongs.
Majority whip Maryellen Goodwin (Democrat, District 1, Providence), perhaps surprised by Senator Valverde, rose to demand that the motion be kept out of discussion until various resolutions were implemented and read. Senator Valverde agreed.
25 minutes later, after all resolutions had been implemented, Senator Valverde returned to the lectern and repeated her objection to the Senate President Dominick RuggerioPlace’s (Democrat, District 4, Providence) decision S0267 in the judiciary, a committee primarily concerned with crime and punishment, rather than the HHS, which routinely deals with health issues and Medicaid. That was a very valid objection. Abortion is health care, after all, and it has a precedent.
To understand what happened next, you need to understand that the Senate President, the Majority Whip, and the Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey (Democrat, District 29, Warwick) are all anti-electoral Democrats who hold the three highest leadership positions in the Rhode Island Senate. The Senate Judiciary Committee has been carefully staffed with anti-electoral lawmakers for decades to ensure that no legislation that could make access to abortion easier and safer can ever be passed.
This system worked for a long time, but two years ago a huge wave of pro-choice supporters bombarded the General Assembly to codify Roe versus Wade into it Rhode Island State Law. This wave of women-led advocacy was so great that the Rhode Island House of Representatives, also traditionally anti-election, quickly gave in and insisted Law for the Protection of the Reproductive Capacity. But over in the Senate Judiciary Committee, the system worked exactly as it was supposed to, and the law on abortion law got stuck with one vote on the Senate Judiciary Committee. senator Stephen Archambaultwho ran as a candidate for the election, apparently changed his mind and did everything in his power to block the bill, going as far as publicly insulting the bill’s sponsor. Gayle Goldin (Democrat, District 3, Providence).
The Senate leadership, Ruggerio, McCaffrey and Goodwin, would not vote for the bill themselves, but had promised not to prevent the bill from going through the Senate. Ultimately, it was decided to move the bill from the Senate Judiciary to the Senate HHS Committee, where the bill could be passed easily. Days later governor Gina Raimondo signed the law that codified Roe versus Wade into state law.
Senator Valverde’s bill, S0267, would “add abortion coverage to the Medicaid program and remove the exclusion of abortion coverage from state employee insurance”. It currently has 21 sponsors in the Senate, more than enough to pass the bill when it comes to the Senate. The bill is also nicely written and starts with five points:
- With the passage of the Reproductive Privacy Act in 2019, the General Assembly recognized the importance of protecting an individual’s right to reproductive health care. However, exercising this right can be illusory for people with limited financial resources.
- Funding restrictions on abortion coverage affect an individual’s personal decision-making, health and well-being, and their constitutionally protected right to a safe and legal medical process.
- Abortion protection restrictions have a disproportionate impact on low-income residents, immigrants, people of color and young people who are already disadvantaged in access to the resources, information and services necessary to prevent unwanted pregnancy or to sustain a healthy pregnancy .
- Numerous other states offer abortion protection in their Medicaid programs and in their state employee insurance plans.
- The purpose of this legislation is to make access to reproductive health care more equitable.
Anti-election senator Louis DiPalma (Democrat, District 12, Little Compton, Middletown, Newport, Tiverton) objected to the bill’s reassignment. “For the past decade, all but two bills, one of which was on license plates, have been on the Judiciary Committee on abortion-related bills,” DiPalma said.
Senate President Ruggerio immediately called for a vote, but anti-electoral senator Jessica de la Cruz (Republicans, District 23, Burrillville, Glocester) rose to falsely claim that the rules would not allow Valverde to object.
“That’s not true,” said Senator Valverde.
Senate President Ruggerio agreed and corrected Senator de la Cruz, who sat down.
Pro-Choice Senator Samuel Bell (Democrat, District 5, Providence), whose approval light was not recognized by the Senate President, had to stop to be heard. An obviously disgruntled Senate President tried to shut down Senator Bell, saying the motion was a “simple objection”.
Senator Bell claimed that the objection was in fact a motion worth discussing. Senate President Ruggerio asked Senator Bell to review the section of the Handbook of the mason when the objection is declared to be controversial.
Anti-election senator Frank Lombardi (Democrat, District 26, Cranston), who once chaired the Senate committee, didn’t bother with a microphone but shouted from the Senate. “According to the rules, an objection was lodged by an incumbent senator,” said Senator Lombardi. “The only relief you can have is that the chairman has to vote on it.”
“But there should be a debate about this vote,” said Senator Valverde.
“It is not debatable,” said Senate President Ruggerio.
“It’s a controversial motion under Mason’s rules,” countered Senator Bell. “If we want to start reinventing what is controversial or not, as we did here before, that is problematic …”
“This is a simple Senator vote,” interrupted Senate President Ruggerio, who then called the vote.
Leaving the lectern, Senator Valverde begged her fellow senators to “vote yes, please”.
The objection failed with 15-22 votes.
The final vote was disappointing as the number of presumed “pro-election” senators voted to keep the bill in the Judiciary Committee, where it has a more difficult path to passage than in HHS.
Senators Dawn (Democrat, District 13, Newport, Jamestown), Cynthia Armor Coyne (Democrat, District 32, Barrington), Valerie Lawson (Democrat, District 14, East Providence, Pawtucket), Hanna Gallo (Democrat, District 27, Cranston), Ana Quezada (Democrat, District 2, Providence) and Ryan Pearson (Democrat, District 19, Cumberland) all voted against Senator Valverde’s objection.
And it can’t just be because committee chairs and others who hold titled positions in the Senate fear retaliation from the leadership. Senators Sandra Canoe (Democrat, District 8, Pawtucket), Joshua Miller (Democrat, District 28, Cranston) and Susan Sosnowski (Democrat, District 37, Block Island, South Kingstown) voted in favor of Senator Valverde’s objection and all chairs major, high-level committees.
Senators Your, Lawson, Pearson, and Coyne are all currently supported by Planned parenting. Had they voted for Senator Valverde’s objection, the bill would have been on the HHS committee now – where it belongs.