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NEW: RI Coalition for Reproductive Justice Unveils New Leg. Agenda

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


The Rhode Island Coalition for Reproductive Justice announced their legislative agenda for the coming year from the Statehouse Rotunda mid-Tuesday afternoon.

Statements of support were made by legislators and advocates, including The Honorable Rhoda Perry, former State Senator from the Third District; Marcia Cone, Executive Director of the Women's Fund of Rhode Island; Rev. Amy Frenze, Pastor at Hope Congregational Church UCC; Dr. Christine Brousseau of the Rhode Island American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG); Vanessa Volz, Executive Director of the Sojourner House; and Senator Josh Miller, chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services.

The tenets of the agenda are as follows:

Women’s Health

Align the family planning program with the ACA. Rhode Island covers family planning services in a very limited way for women who deliver babies through Medicaid but only for two years post-partum. Expanding the current program would bring new federal funds into the state with a 9 to 1 match. For every dollar spent on family planning, about $4 is saved within a year on health costs associated with unintended pregnancy, prenatal care, labor and delivery. Approximately 50% of all pregnancies in RI are unintended and of those, 59% are Medicaid births. The program would fund basic reproductive health services including annual well woman exams, Pap tests, breast exams, testing and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, and contraceptive methods.
Eliminate gender discrimination from health insurance. It’s time to codify the gender rating elimination provisions of the Affordable Care Act and apply them to all group insurance plans. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the ACA, giving Rhode Island lawmakers more momentum – indeed, an obligation -- to repeal gender discrimination from our state statute in order to ensure that Rhode Island will never go back to a time when women are charged more than men solely because of their gender.

Protect sensitive medical information. Crisis pregnancy centers are not required to follow federal HIPPAA confidentiality protections and are not regulated by the RI Department of Health. Little is known about their business practices or services. We believe that women, families and lawmakers should know more, rather than less, about businesses that hold themselves out as medical providers and hold such centers accountable to stringent patient privacy protections.

Protect pregnant women in the workplace. Rhode Island should pass common sense protections that allow pregnant women continue to do their jobs and support their families by requiring employers to make accommodations for pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions that they regularly make for workers who are temporarily injured or disabled.

Domestic Violence Prevention

Fund domestic violence prevention programs. Domestic violence is a serious, preventable public health problem that affects thousands of Rhode Islanders and their children each year. There is a growing body of evidence-informed prevention programs that can help stop abuse in our communities before it starts, but Rhode Island currently does not fund domestic violence prevention at all. We support the creation of a Domestic Violence Prevention Fund to invest in these programs.

Codification of Abortion Protections

Codify Roe v. Wade. Sixteen states have protections for abortion access that mirror or are stronger than the protections established under Roe v. Wade. Rhode Island should ensure women will never face criminal sanctions for making personal decisions about a pregnancy, and join Vermont, Connecticut and Massachusetts to ensure that fundamental abortion rights will never be subject to rollbacks in federal courts.

Repeal spousal notice. Three decades ago, Rhode Island passed a law requiring a physician to notify a woman’s spouse in order to terminate a pregnancy. The law is not enforceable thanks to a 1984 court decision ruling the statute unconstitutional. However, the law remains on the books. It should be repealed in order to leave no doubt about the inappropriateness of such a requirement, which would force notification even in cases of rape and incest.

Protect abortion facilities. Rhode Island should codify the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) act passed by Congress in 1994. The law prevents the use of physical force, threats of physical force or intimidation against patients seeking reproductive health services, health care providers or individuals exercising free speech near abortion facilities.

Protect those most vulnerable in RiteStart. Rhode Island’s RIteStart program for low-income families supplements the federal Medicaid program but, unlike the federal Hyde Amendment, does not provide funding to allow women to terminate a pregnancy as a result of rape and incest. Current law only permits a woman in RIteStart to obtain an abortion in the narrow case of endangerment of her life. The exception should, at a minimum, apply to rape and incest survivors similar to Medicaid.

Fund abortion coverage for ALL women. Rhode Island has one of the most restrictive state laws in the region preventing state funding for abortions for low income women. The federal Hyde Amendment prohibits federal tax dollars from being spent on abortion with the exception of cases of rape, incest or endangerment of life of the mother. Women covered under Medicaid should be able to access abortions using state dollars similarly to 17 other states, including our neighbors in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont.

Repeal Restrictions on abortion coverage for state employees. Laws barring the state and municipalities from providing their employees health insurance plans that include coverage for abortion remain on the books even though they are largely unconstitutional. These discriminatory laws should be repealed.


Related Slideshow: Women Leading in Rhode Island

Who are some of Rhode Island's high-level female bosses?  GoLocal takes a look at some of the leading women in the state in their respective industries, in the private and nonprofit sector. 

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Carolyn Rafaelian


The founder and Creative Director of Alex and Ani, Rafaelian started the company in 2004 to produce jewelry to “adorn the body, enlighten the mind, and empower the spirit.”  

Prior to founding Alex and Ani, Rafaelian produced designs for and co-owned Cinerama, her father’s jewelry manufacturing company.  Now, in addition to Alex and Ani, Rafaelian owns Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyard, and the café franchise Teas and Javas.  Rafaelian received the 2012 Rhode Island Small Businessperson of the Year Award as well as Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in the products category for New England.

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Cheryl Merchant


Merchant is the CEO and President of Hope Global, an engineered textile solutions company centered in Cumberland with plants and sales offices all over the world. 

Merchant began her career as a production supervisor at General Motors, then worked at Mazda, Ford Motor Company, and Lear Corporation, and managed manufacturing plants in Mexico, Canada, Poland, England, and America.  

In addition to her work with Hope Global, Merchant is an active member of the Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce, the Rhode Island Commodores, and the Governor’s Economic Development Council, and is a trustee of Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council.

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Cheryl Snead


Snead is the CEO of Banneker Industries, Inc., a supply chain management company in North Smithfield that has performed e-procurement, assembly, packaging, inventory management, warehousing and distribution services since its founding in 1991.

Snead has served as state delegate on the U.S. Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council and received the 2009 New England Businesswoman of the Year Award and Women Business Enterprise National Council Star Award, among numerous others in year prior.  She now serves on the Board of Directors of AMICA Insurance Company and is a member of the Rhode Island Commodores.

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Cheryl Zimmerman


Zimmerman is the CEO and Chairman of the Board for FarSounder Inc., a Warwick based company specializing in sonar technology and born of Zimmerman’s achievement in the 2002 Rhode Island Business Plan Competition. 

Since its inception, the company’s sales have grown exponentially and it has expanded to different markets within the nautical navigation industry. 

Previously, Zimmerman has run numerous other businesses including a company for wholesale book selling and one for engineering services. 

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Christina Paxson


The nineteenth President of Brown University, Paxson had previously served as Dean of Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and Chair of its economics department, as well as Director and founder of an NIA Center for the Economics and Demography of Aging. 

Paxson is an expert in public health, having conducted research on childhood health, AIDS in Africa, and Hurricane Katrina, among other topics. 

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Laurie White


White, the President of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce,  previously served as its Senior Vice President, and an executive counselor to the Governor in policy and communications.  She is dedicated to strengthening the business community in Providence with focus on employment and retaining young, talented professionals to work in the state.  

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Nancy Carriuolo


Dr. Carriuolo is the ninth President of Rhode Island College.  She has previously served as the Director of the Office of School/College Relations at NEASC and the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences the University of New Haven. 

She has written over thirty publications, featured in, among others, The Chronicle of Higher Education and Education Week.  In 2009, she was named a CLADEA fellow, and she has served on the boards of many organizations, including the Journal of Developmental Education and New England Dollars for Scholars.

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Sally Lapides


Lapides is the co-founder, President, and CEO of Rhode Island real estate firm Residential Properties.  

Lapides has been quoted in many local and national publications as a real estate specialist.  During her career, Lapides has served on the boards at the RISD Museum, Roger Williams University, Smith Hill Center, and Trinity Repertory Company, among others -- and as Chair of the Board of the Rhode Island Foundation’s Equity Action Campaign Committee, helped raise a million dollars for the Fund for the LGBT community.

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Sandra Pattie


Pattie, the CEO and President of BankNewport and OceanPoint Financial Partners, MHC, began her career with the bank in 1984 as a consumer loan officer, rising through ranks and across different areas of expertise. 

Pattie is a board member of the United Way of Rhode Island and the Rhode Island Bankers Association as well as a trustee of the Community College of Rhode Island.  She is also a certified financial planner and a member of the Board of Governors for Newport Hospital.

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Trudy Coxe


Coxe is the Executive Director and CEO of the Preservation Society of Newport County.  Before holding this position, Coxe served as the Massachusetts Secretary of Environmental Affairs, Executive Director of Rhode Island’s Save the Bay, and Director of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  

Coxe has received numerous awards for her business success, including the 2011 Business Women Award for Overall Career Achievement from the Providence Business News.  She also does extensive volunteer work, including sitting on the boards of Grow Smart Rhode Island and the Rhode Island Commodores.  She also serves on the Advisory Board of the Conservation Law Foundation and the Alumni Board of the Wheeler School.


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