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Pro-Choice advocates make an Ireland / Rhode Island connection



Ahead of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the Reproductive Health Care Act (RHCA), The Woman Project held a press conference drawing a parallel between Ireland, the extremely Catholic country that just voted, by a two-to-one margin, to repeal the 8th Amendment to the Constitution of Ireland that outlawed abortion, and the extremely Catholic State of Rhode Island’s efforts to pass the RHCA.

The RHCA is a bill to codify the federal protections of Roe v Wade into Rhode Island state law.

Mary Ann Sorrentino, former head of Planned Parenthood Rhode Island, began the conference with some words, then a short film about the difficulties of women living in Ireland without easy access to reproductive health care, including abortion.

“I feel like I’m going to be doing this until they put [it] on my tombstone, and I’m tired,” said Sorrentino after the movie, fighting tears. “We don’t have a very good chance of passage today. We know that. This is all about what advocates do when they’re serious about something.

“We need to make them understand that we mean it. We need to let them know that we can hurt them, that’s all they understand. They don’t understand politeness, or courtesy, or brilliance, or articulateness,” continued Sorrentino. “That isn’t what this building [Rhode Island State House] represents, I’m sorry to say. It represents blackmail, and every other trick in the book to get where you want to go.

“We have something fortuitous happening for us in November, and if these turkeys continue to behave the way they are then we need to show them that in November, and what it means to women.

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“Just this last couple of weeks, I think it was a week ago, the Speaker said that he doesn’t like to talk about the abortion issue because it takes up all the oxygen in the room. So I went to his office today and I delivered an order that I took out today to send him a case of oxygen from Amazon so that he never runs out again,” said Sorrentino.

“This is the same man who a few days later was all happy because he voted for the new stadium. So what does this tell us? This tells us that a bunch of men with seven cases of beer in the trunk having to drive to Worcester instead of going to Pawtucket for a ballgame is more of a crisis to him than a woman having to fly to another country for reproductive health care services. And that should be tattooed on every voter’s arm when they go to pull the lever in November.

“So, for Mr Mattiello, and for Mr Ruggerio – Some of you are too young to know this, but Dominick Ruggerio first came to public, general knowledge in this state because he had lifted condoms out of a CVS, and stuffed them in his socks. At least we know he was using condoms. that’s the only good part of that story.

“This is who we’re up against.”

Rhode Island State Senator Gayle Goldin (Democrat, District 3, Providence)’s husband was coincidentally in Ireland during the vote to repeal the 8th Amendment there, and scored the Senator a “Together for Yes” tee shirt and a newspaper from Ireland.

“I think, particularly since Trump was elected, there’s been a phenomenal amount of women whose activism has been inspiring,” said Goldin. “It has been a privilege for me to be the lead sponsor on this bill [the RHCA].”

Dr Jodi Glass, a long-time advocate of women’s rights in Rhode island, told a very personal story of her abortion and the support of her parents.

“My mother and my grandmother, a Democrat and a Republican, put their partisan differences aside and raised me with a vision that health care, including abortion, was my right,” said Jordan Hevenor of the The Woman Project.

Jodi Glass

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About the Author

Steve Ahlquist is Uprise RI's co-founder and lead reporter. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.