Rhode Island Senate Committee Defeats Radical Bill Legalizing Abortions Up to Birth

State   Steven Ertelt   May 14, 2019   |   6:16PM    Providence, Rhode Island

A Rhode Island state senate committee has defeated a radical bill that would have legalized abortions up to birth. The vote today is great news for the pro-life community in the New England State because the state house had already approved the measure.

Now Rhode Island will not follow the state of New York in legalizing abortions on babies up to the point of birth. However, Vermont, Illinois and Massachusetts are still dealing with radical legislation like that. The vote has Rhode Island joining New Mexico in defeating the extreme pro-abortion bill for abortions without limit up to the day of birth for unborn babies. In both states, pro-life advocates expected the measures to pass the state legislature and be signed into law by their governors.

The Rhode Island Senate Judiciary Committee voted down the pro-abortion bill on a 5-4 vote after a key legislator decided to oppose it. Sen. Stephen Archambault, D-Smithfield, cast the deciding vote against the bill after initially indicating he would support it.

“I cannot support post-viability abortions that are based on undefined ‘health’ reasons and would permit very late term, up to date of birth, abortions. It simply goes too far,” he said.

But the Providence newspaper indicates the Senate may try to resurrect the bill from committee:

The defeat raised the prospect of a Senate floor fight in the coming days, as senators on the losing side try to attach the defeated abortion-rights bill to other legislation. Antiabortion legislators used the same approach in 1997 to win passage of a “partial birth abortion ban” that was ruled unconstitutional two years later.

In an interview earlier in the day, one of the bill’s co-sponsors — Democrat Joshua Miller of Cranston, chairman of the Senate Committee on Health & Human Services — confirmed that “there are discussions about whether it is appropriate or [there is] any precedent to attaching it to some [other] bill.”

A big question: do the abortion-rights activists have the 20 votes they would need in the 38-member, heavily Democrat-dominated Senate, to fight a winning battle on another day?

When the bill championed by Sen. Gayle Goldin was first introduced in January, it had 18 co-sponsors. One of the co-sponsors, Sen. James Sheehan, withdrew, saying he was nonetheless likely to vote for the legislation if given a chance. It remains unclear who the other two yes votes might be, and whether supporters had been counting on Archambault based on his mid-campaign statements.

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.

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Support for unborn babies’ rights is growing, and polls consistently show that most Americans oppose late-term abortions.

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).

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.

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.