With concerns that the current administration in Washington may prompt consideration in the U.S. Supreme Court of efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade, a bill has been introduced in the Rhode Island General Assembly that would protect a woman’s right to choose.
The legislation, introduced in the Rhode Island Senate and House of Representatives, seeks to overturn current legislation that has helped Rhode Island win the label as among the states with the most restrictive abortion legislation.
It would essentially make Roe v. Wade the law in Rhode Island, serving to protect a woman’s right to choose in the event the U.S. Supreme Court revokes it.
“We have a president who is anti-choice, no friend of women and has demonstrated a reckless disregard of the Constitution,” said Rep. Edith Ajello of Providence, a primary sponsor of the Reproductive Health Care Act. “We have anti-choice leaders in both chambers of Congress, and a Supreme Court whose balance could help the other two branches destroy the protections provided by Roe v. Wade.”
The legislation, which has been introduced in previous years, is expected to face steep opposition from Right to Life groups and the Catholic Church.
Pro-life groups have endorsed and contributed financially to the state’s Democratic legislative leaders in the past, while Planned Parenthood and other pro-abortion groups have helped finance Progressive Democrats.
Each year that Progressive wing seems to grow, making it more likely of eventual passage of the legislation. An important shift happened in last year’s special state Senate election in Newport to replace former Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed, who left the legislature to become executive director of the Hospital Association of Rhode Island. Paiva Weed had been endorsed by Right to Life.
Dawn Euer, a progressive, won in a hotly contested primary in which she defeated the incumbent and two other well-known candidates. She then won in a special general election. Euer ran with the support of Planned Parenthood.
The legislation, introduced by Providence Representative Ajello and Senator Gayle Goldin, also of Providence, would eliminate several chapters that make it a criminal offense to perform an abortion or help a woman obtain one. It would also eliminate a law enacted in 1973 following the Roe v. Wade decision that defines human life as commencing at conception.
“Unless we erase these unconstitutional laws, it is feasible that the women of Rhode Island could be knocked back a half-century to the days of secret, dangerous back-room abortions,” Ajello said. “This isn’t symbolic. It’s necessary to protect women’s lives and rights.”
“Regardless of what these statutes say, control of our own bodies and health have been the law in the United States and Rhode Island for 45 years,” Goldin said. “For the entire time, our state has lacked the political will to repeal these unconstitutional laws, and that inaction is now putting the health and rights of Rhode Island women at genuine risk. Women deserve better from the leaders of our state. Rhode Island must affirm, once and for all, that a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body is protected in our state before the federal government stops doing it for us.”
According to a press release issued by the Rhode Island General Assembly’s legislative press office, Pew Research found that Rhode Islanders favor legal abortion by a two to one margin. The press release also notes that NARAL Pro Choice America rates Rhode Island as having the most restrictive abortion laws in New England.