“I don’t care what my employer believes,” wrote Mel DuPont, from the Committee to Pass RHCA in RI. “I need the insurance I work for to cover my needs. Not theirs.”
DuPont was reacting to the Trump Administration‘s recent announcement removing the rule requiring that employer-provided health benefits cover contraception. The move allows corporations to impose their religious beliefs on their employees when it comes to birth control. The administration also revised guidelines on religious rights that will impact LGBTQ people. These two policies highlight the Trump Administration’s priorities when it comes to human rights. As Trump put it, “we will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied or silenced anymore.”
In other words, your human rights end where the religious beliefs of corporations begin.
Here in Rhode Island, the Trump Administration’s position on women’s health care, and the recent House vote to ban abortion after 20 weeks, are seen as attacks by groups, like DuPont’s, that see access to reproductive health care as a basic human right and need. In response to these attacks at the federal level, groups and individuals advocating for the reproductive rights of woman across Rhode Island are seeking state level protections.
“Speaker Mattiello has said the General Assembly will not act to repeal Rhode Island’s draconian abortion laws and codify the tenets of Roe v Wade until it is actually overturned by the Supreme Court,” writes The Woman Project on their site. “After this week, our question for the speaker is: Is it really fair to over 51 percent of Rhode Islanders to make them wait to take action?
“The Woman Project believes that it is not fair or just to make Rhode Island women wait any longer. We live in daily fear of our rights being stripped away. It is time for our General Assembly to step up and pass legislation to protect our reproductive rights. The General Assembly needs to come back with a plan to make sure health care for over 51 percent of Rhode Islanders isn’t marginalized. The women of Rhode Island need access to birth control. They need our draconian abortion laws repealed. They need to have the tenets of Roe v Wade codified to ensure safe and legal access to abortion.”
Planned Parenthood of Southern New England‘s Rhode Island Director of Public Policy and Government Relations, Craig O’Connor, mentioned other legislation that may blunt the Trump Administration’s new rules regarding reproductive health care.
“Protecting access to contraception is a critical piece of defending reproductive freedom,” writes O’Connor. “This year, Representative Katherine Kazarian introduced legislation (H5486) to allow for prescribing of contraception for a full year and to retain in RI law the provision of the Affordable Care Act that prevents patients from being charged cost-sharing for birth control. Despite broad support from health care leaders and women’s organizations, the legislation was not passed. We encourage Senate President Dominick Ruggerio and House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello to pass this legislation in 2018.”
In addition to working locally to change and enact laws that will protect the reproductive health care rights of women, pressure has also been building to get our federal delegation to fight for reproductive health care access in Washington. James Langevin received praise for his vote against the 20 week abortion ban, which represented a change in policy for the Representative. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse put out a strong statement in support of women’s reproductive health care right, saying, “Women should be able to make their own health care decisions regardless of where they work. The Affordable Care Act advanced women’s rights by recognizing that birth control ought to be fully covered by insurance. President Trump’s new rule is a step backwards, particularly for women struggling to make ends meet who can’t afford to pay for birth control out of pocket. It seems the Trump administration is working on all fronts to tear up decades of hard-fought progress.”
Rhode Islanders stand overwhelmingly in support of reproductive and abortion rights for women.
Mel DuPont, quoted at the beginning of this piece, ended her post asking a series of questions:
“How does denying women contraception further “health?”
“How is denying women their rights a “human service?”
“Women need contraception. 9 in 10 American women have used contraception. Why should any employer be allowed to push this to 0 in 10? Isn’t contraception my choice?
“I have the right to choose whether to prevent, commence, continue, or terminate a pregnancy. Not my employer. Me.
“See you in court.”