Rhode Island Bill to Legalize Abortions Up to Birth Heads to State Senate

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Mar 12, 2019   |   4:23PM   |   Providence, Rhode Island

A Rhode Island bill that would legalize abortion for basically any reason up to birth is awaiting action in a state Senate committee after it passed the House last week.

Similar to the new abortion law in New York, state Senate Bill 152 would allow unborn babies to be aborted for basically any reason up to birth, even if Roe v. Wade is overturned, and strike down modest abortion restrictions in the state.

Though the bill easily passed the state House, its fate is less certain in the state Senate, the Providence Journal reports. Support for unborn babies’ rights is growing, and polls consistently show that most Americans oppose late-term abortions.

The state Senate Judiciary Committee appears to be narrowly divided on the bill, and it has not scheduled a vote, according to the report. Five of the nine members appear to support the pro-abortion, but the report identified freshman Sen. Mark McKenny of Warwick as a possible swing vote.

Prior to being elected, McKenny said he would support codifying Roe v. Wade in state law but not “efforts to go beyond Roe.” When asked this week about the bill, however, McKenny said he “likely” would vote in favor of it.

State Sen. Leonidas Raptakis, of Coventry, is one of the four likely no votes. He said he supports abortion but probably will not support the bill because there is “a lot of confusion” about what it would do, the report states.

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Three other committee members, state Sens. Jessica de la Cruz of North Smithfield, Harold Metts of Providence and Frank Lombardi of Cranston, are endorsed by Rhode Island Right to Life and also are expected to vote no.

Here’s more from the report:

The wild card: Senate leaders — including the Senate president, majority and minority leaders and whips — can vote, as ex-officio members, in any committee. While this is rare, except in votes on judicial nominees and Cabinet appointments, even one more vote could kill the bill on a tie. All were Right-to-Life endorsed in 2018.

Senate Minority Whip Elaine Morgan, R-Hopkinton, told The Journal she does not want to see the bill pass … She also personally believes “It is not Roe v. Wade; it is beyond that.” She said she would like to see an amendment — akin to one voted down by the House — making the legislation “contingent on the overturning of Roe v. Wade.”

Pro-abortion lawmakers, the ACLU and other pro-abortion groups claim the bill merely codifies Roe v. Wade in the state in the event that the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the case.

However, pro-life leaders said this is misleading. A legal analysis of the bill provided by Rhode Island Right to Life states: “… it is ‘a gross distortion and blatant misrepresentation’ to claim that this ‘slightly revised’ version of the original bill would merely codify the principles of Roe v. Wade. … [The legislation] remains an extreme abortion bill, like its counterparts in New York and Virginia.”

The bill appears to allow restrictions for late-term abortions, but it adds a broad “health” exception for abortions after viability. The exception would allow women to abort unborn babies up to nine months of pregnancy for basically any “health” reason, including “age, economic, social and emotional factors,” a definition given by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case Doe v. Bolton.

According to the legal analysis, the bill would:

  • Eliminate any constitutional restrictions on late-term abortions
  • Eliminate any constitutional restrictions on methods of abortion
  • Undermine the authority of the State and the Department of Health from enacting and adopting constitutional restrictions on the performance of abortions at facilities where abortions are performed
  • Require the State to pay for all abortions sought by Medicaid-eligible pregnant women and women covered by the “payer of last Resort” program
  • Substantially “water down” the State’s parental consent statute by allowing consent to be obtained from persons who have no constitutional right to give consent (grandparents and adult siblings).

State lawmakers also are considering a second pro-abortion bill, state House Bill 5127, which is similar to the pro-abortion bill before the committee. Gov. Gina Raimondo, who claims to be Catholic, supports the legislation.

If either bill passes, America could see abortion rates rise after a steady decline for decades. Both are similar to a New York law that Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed in January, legalizing abortion for basically any reason up to birth. The Vermont, Massachusetts and New Mexico legislatures also are considering bills this winter to expand late-term abortions.

Rhode Island Right to Life, state Catholic leaders and Republicans are urging pro-lifers to keep voicing their opposition to the legislation.

ACTION: Contact Rhode Island state senators here.