Hundreds of people crowded the Rhode Island State House rotunda to celebrate the introduction of the Reproductive Health Care Act (RHCA), legislation that would codify the federal protections of of Roe v Wade into state law and protect access to reproductive health services, including abortion. The event, organized by the Rhode Island Coalition for Reproductive Freedom (RICRF)1 also served as a call to pass this act in the General Assembly, which has declined to pass the bill for over two decades. Governor Gina Raimondo supports the bill.

As the government in Washington moves to diminish or eliminate Roe v Wade, the RHCA in Rhode Island has more legislative sponsors than ever before in both the House and the Senate.

Despite problems with the sound system, the enthusiasm of the crowd was undiminished. “I’m starting to believe that the opponents of Roe v Wade made a deal with the microphone to shut us down,” quipped Providence City Councilor Nirva LaFortune (Ward 3), who served as emcee for the event. Fortunately, in the videos below, all the speakers can be heard clearly.

“Just yesterday the State of New York passed its own Reproductive Health Care Act, codifying the very important legislation that protects women and people’s right to choose,” said LaFortune during her introductory remarks.

“…now, we have a record majority [of sponsors],” said State Representative Edith Ajello (Democrat, District 1, Providence), who introduced the legislation in the House. “Including nearly three/quarters of the female members of the House as sponsors, 20 of 26.”

“We have a President who has glorified sexual assault, we’ve seen him use the power of his pen to limit access to abortion in every way that he can, globally and locally,” said State Senator Gayle Goldin (Democrat, District 3, Providence) who introduced the RHCA in the Senate. “We have seen him try to diminish the value of women through his actions, through his policies and through his words…”

“Reproductive Justice was founded by black and POC folk because there is no choice without access and there is no access without resources,” said Tiara Mack, an educator and boardmember of the Women’s Health and Education Fund. “Passing the Reproductive Health Care Act will preserve the right to safe, legal abortion, but it is just the first step towards reproductive justice.”

“Roe, among the many other things that it’s done, has actually helped decrease intergenerational transmission of poverty,” said Hilary Levey Friedman, president of the Rhode Island National Organization for Women. “Numerous studies of the highest academic caliber have told us that contraception, of which abortion is a crucial part of that story, is what powers women’s educational and employment successes.”

“We Jews know what it is to have other people interfere in our lives, make decisions for us, and impose their values upon us,” said Rabbi Andrew Klein. “Our Jewish history is one of resiliency and strength across the powerful external forces who have attempted to curb our freedoms, restrict our rights and even end our existence as a people.”

“I am a women who has been pregnant with and given birth to three children by choice, all of whom are grown and have children of their own,” said Reverend Jennifer Geary. “I am a woman who has served God and the Church for over 40 years, and for 25 as an ordained minister. I believe God gave all humanity, each and every one of us, free will, self agency and personal choice…”

“I’m here today because I trust my patients to make decisions about if, when and how to raise a family,” said Ben Brown, an obstetrician and gynecologist practicing in Rhode Island and a fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health. “I’m here because I want to be a part of making health care safe and accessible .to all Rhode Islanders, no matter a person’s race, their gender, their sexual orientation, what language they speak, or their place of birth.

“You might be able to see why the Reproductive Health Care Act is important to me,” said Audrey O’Donnell, a junior at MET High School. “Particularly as a young person who’s going to be affected if this bill is passed…”

“Reproductive rights are under attack,” said Amanda Skinner, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southern New England. “They’re under attack like never before… We know that access to abortion is on the line…”

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  1. Members of the RICRF include: American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island (ACLU), American Congress of Obstetricians, Rhode Island Chapter, Catholics for Choice, The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health, Hope and Change for Haiti, Humanists of Rhode Island, Indivisible Rhode Island, League of Women Voters – Rhode Island, Medical Students for Choice, National Council of Jewish Women – Rhode Island Chapter, Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, Rhode Island Working Families Party ⋄ Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Rhode Island Democratic Women for Leadership, Rhode Island National Association of Social Workers, Rhode Island National Organization for Women, Rhode Island Religious Coalition for Reproductive Freedom, The Woman Project, Women’s Health and Education Fund, Women’s Fund of Rhode Island and Young Democrats of Rhode Island