Rhode Island State Senator Gayle Goldin (Democrat, District 3, Providence) and Representative Edith Ajello (Democrat, District 1, Providence) have pre-filed their legislation to enshrine the reproductive health care rights protected by Roe v Wade to defend against threats at the federal level.
The Reproductive Health Care Act (RHCA), which they also filed in 2017 and 2018, would codify the current state of the law on reproductive rights in Rhode Island set forth under the landmark Roe v Wade case, limiting restrictions on an individual’s right to terminate a pregnancy. It would also update and correct Rhode Island codification of its general laws by formally removing statutes and sections concerning reproductive rights that have been declared unconstitutional and unenforceable, but have never been removed.
With a conservative-leaning United States Supreme Court and a president and the leader of the United States Senate who are opposed to reproductive freedom, the two Providence legislators are pushing for passage of their bill to protect Rhode Islanders in the case of any federal rollback of rights.
“Rhode Islanders overwhelmingly support the reproductive rights that are currently the law of the land. But our state law books include multiple, in some cases, very intentional contradictions to the rights articulated by Roe v Wade. Unfortunately, with the individuals in power in Washington right now, there is a very real chance that Roe v Wade could be overturned at some point in the near future, leaving Rhode Island women subject to these insidiously restrictive, harmful and patriarchal reproductive laws. Half a century of progress would be wiped away, and we would return to the days when women were forced to put their lives at risk in making personal reproductive health decisions,” said Ajello.
“Despite Rhode Islanders’ decisive support of reproductive rights, our state has lacked the political will to repeal these unconstitutional laws for more than 45 years, and instead has even tried to create new ones that have been struck down,” said Goldin. “Ignoring the will of the people in this case will have devastating impacts on women’s health in the very real possibility that those opposed to these rights succeed in eliminating their protection at the federal level. Women deserve better from the leaders of our state. Rhode Island must affirm, once and for all, that a women’s right to make decisions about her own body is protected in our state, before the federal government stops doing that job for us.”
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The legislation, which Senator Goldin and Representative Ajello pre-filed on November 28, is identical to the bill they introduced during the 2018 session. [See: S2163/H7340] The Reproductive Health Care Act would prohibit the state or any of its agencies from interfering with any individual’s reproductive health care, including a decision to terminate a pregnancy prior to fetal viability, or after that point in cases when necessary to preserve the woman’s health or life. It would eliminate several chapters that make it a criminal offense to perform an abortion or help a woman obtain one, as well as a law enacted in 1973 following the Roe v Wade decision that defines human life as commencing “at the instant of conception.” It would also eliminate laws requiring that the husband of any married woman is notified before she can terminate a pregnancy and prohibiting insurers from covering the procedure.
A poll from the Providence Journal, the Public’s Radio and ABC 6 this fall found 71 percent of Rhode Islanders surveyed support the bill to protect abortion access. Despite this public support, NARAL Pro-choice America lists Rhode Island as having the most restrictive abortion laws in New England. The agency ranks Rhode Island worse than even conservative states like Alaska and Montana, because their laws have more adequate protections of women’s right to make their own health care decisions.
[From a Rhode Island State House Press Release]