Rhode Island Pro-Lifers Sue Chafee Over Obamacare, Abortion

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 30, 2011   |   2:49PM   |   Providence, RI

The state pro-life group in Rhode Island and two dozen state legislators are preparing to file a lawsuit against pro-abortion Gov. Lincoln Chafee concerning his attempt to force state residents to pay for abortions via their tax dollars.

Chafee issued an executive order on September 19 to establish a Health Benefits Exchange governed by a 13 member board exercising expansive state governmental powers —  even after the General Assembly rejected legislation creating such an Exchange.

RIRTL executive director Barth Bracy explains to LifeNews that the Rhode Island Senate passed the Health Benefits Exchange Act April 5 on a 31-6 vote, but the legislation never made it to the floor of the state House because Speaker Gordon Fox joined Chafee and Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts in opposing language in the Act that, consistent with longstanding state and federal law, prohibits government funds from being used to purchase health insurance plans that provide coverage for elective abortion.

“Chafee and other powerful officials opposed the Exchange legislation passed by the Senate on April 5 due to language that, consistent with longstanding state and federal law, prohibits government funds from being used to purchase health insurance plans that provide coverage for elective abortion,” he said. “The Senate bill, as well as a House version with no abortion-funding prohibition, died in the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare.”

Constitutional lawyer Joe Larisa will file a Superior Court challenge on Thursday challenging Chafee’s Executive Order on the grounds that it violates the separation of powers doctrine in the Rhode Island Constitution. The lawsuit contends the establishment of the Exchange must be done by the General Assembly and a governing Board must be created by the General Assembly — with all appointees subject to Senate advice and consent.

“More than 20 percent of the General Assembly has signed on with Rhode Island Right to Life as named plaintiffs in the lawsuit,” Bracy said.

“Chafee, Roberts and Fox are apparently so committed to public funding for abortion-on-demand that they are willing to attempt a subversion of constitutional powers in support of their agenda. Rhode Island Right to Life will spare no effort in opposing them,” Bracy said.

Larisa commented on the dustup as well, saying, “It is a fundamental principle of both American and Rhode Island constitutional law that the legislature enacts the laws, the Governor executes the laws and the courts interpret the laws.”

“The majority of state lawmakers want to maintain longstanding prohibitions against public funding for elective abortion. It is tragic that a small group of determined pro-abortion officials is attempting an end-run around the General Assembly and around the Rhode Island Constitution in order to force Rhode Islanders to subsidize other people’s abortions under the guise of health care reform,” Bracy added.

“Here the General Assembly considered and refused to adopt a health benefits exchange — and its own bill correctly declared that legislation is required to create the exchange to meet federal requirements,” the attorney explained. “Moreover, it appears that all other states that have created an exchange have done so pursuant to legislative action. Absent action by the General Assembly, the Governor does not possess constitutional or statutory authority to unilaterally create an exchange.”