On January 15, State Representative Edith Ajello (Democrat, District 1, Providence) introduced the Reproductive Health Care Act of 2019 (H-5127), a bill that would guarantee the right to safe and legal abortion is protected in Rhode Island law no matter what happens at the federal level. A record 39 Representatives, a majority of the House, endorsed this legislation as cosponsors. Senator Gayle Goldin (Democrat, District 3, Providence) will soon introduce the legislation in the Senate with a record 17 cosponsors.

Planned Parenthood Votes! Rhode Island (PPV!RI) stands by the Reproductive Health Care Act (RHCA) and calls for a vote by the full House of Representatives on the RHCA as introduced.

The goal of the RHCA is to preserve the current legal protections as they exist under Roe vs. Wade and subsequent United States Supreme Court decisions, and in current Rhode Island law. The RHCA achieves in two ways: first, it codifies into Rhode Island law the legal parameters created by Roe and other United States Supreme Court cases, and second, it repeals several Rhode Island statutes that have been found by the courts to be unconstitutional and unenforceable.

“PPV!RI is disappointed that an alternate bill, the Reproductive Privacy Act (RPA), has been introduced that does not achieve the goals of the RHCA to preserve and protect the current state of access to care in Rhode Island,” said Amanda Skinner, PPV!RI PAC member and CEO of Planned Parenthood Votes! Rhode Island. “We are calling on our endorsed candidates to withdraw their support of the Reproductive Privacy Act unless it is amended to resolve its deep flaws.”

The RPA falls short by excluding the repeal of some unconstitutional laws. In fact, the Reproductive Privacy Act (H-5125) preserves two anti-choice measures previously recognized as unconstitutional: explicitly preserving a revised version of the state’s antiquated “quick child” law that conflicts with Roe v Wade’s definition of fetal viability, and implicitly preserving the state’s ‘Partial Birth Abortion Act’ which is unconstitutional and far exceeds the federal law. Because of these flaws, if Roe were to fall or be undermined at the federal level, the RPA would not adequately protect Rhode Islanders’ right to safe, legal abortion. Furthermore, the bill contradicts itself in areas, and uses vague language such as making the RPA subject to “all applicable federal and state law,” which could support attacks on reproductive rights because of its open-ended ambiguity, making it difficult for courts to determine what is and what is not allowed.

Neither Planned Parenthood nor any of our partners in the Coalition were consulted in the drafting of the RPA and only learned of the legislation after it was formally introduced on Tuesday. We are deeply disappointed that this flawed bill was created and introduced without the participation of the many organizations that have worked to protect safe, legal abortion in Rhode Island.

As it is written, we oppose the Reproductive Privacy Act, and call on the bill sponsors to amend the RPA to meet the goals of the Reproductive Health Care Act or withdraw their names from this flawed bill.

For more information on Planned Parenthood Votes! Rhode Island, visit ppvotes.org.

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