A Rhode Island Democratic leaders are playing political games this week in an effort to save a radical pro-abortion bill from a second defeat in the state legislature.
On Tuesday, state Senate Judiciary Chairwoman Erin Lynch Prata transferred the pro-abortion bill to a different committee without a vote from her own committee, which rejected the bill once before, WPRI News reports.
Local news outlets described Prata’s decision as highly unusual and even unprecedented, especially after lawmakers amended the bill, the Reproductive Privacy Act, to address concerns from fellow lawmakers who said it was too extreme.
State Senate President Dominick Ruggerio said they decided to move the bill after learning that Republicans planned to invoke their “ex officio” right to join the committee and vote against the bill, according to FaithWire.
Ruggerio slammed Republicans with claims that they would be “abusing their powers” by using the ex-officio rights to vote against the bill for a second time.
“Throughout the day, I implored Republican leadership not to undermine the hard work of the Senate Judiciary Committee by abusing their powers as ex-officio members,” Ruggerio said. “In fact, Democratic and Republican leadership held several discussions this session where we agreed that we would not vote in committee on the bill because we wanted the committee process to take its normal course.”
But Rhode Island Right to Life slammed the pro-abortion Democratic lawmakers for playing political games.
“They are bastardizing the process in pursuit of their desired outcome,” the organization wrote on Twitter. “Disgraceful.”
Senate Republican Whip Elaine Morgan said the bill is “horrible” because it destroys all protections for unborn babies in the state, according to the local news.
“This bill is so bad. And this is what our process is for,” Morgan said. “We have a committee process to stop bad bills. This is a bad bill. This is not right. This is murder. This is just horrible. A horrible bill.”
The bill now is in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. A vote is scheduled for 6:15 p.m. Thursday.
In May, a state Senate committee narrowly defeated the radical pro-abortion bill, but many have suspected that abortion activists would push lawmakers to resurrect it. Last week, pro-life advocates learned of possible action in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“… for the first time in history — Rhode Island law would create and recognize a ‘right’ to take the life of an innocent human being through abortion even though our state Constitution explicitly disavows such a ‘right,’” Rhode Island Right to Life warned in an email to supporters.
If the bill passes, it would allow late-term abortions on viable unborn babies, including partial-birth and dismemberment abortions. New amendments appear to provide some minor limits on late-term abortions, but the bill still allows late-term abortions for the “health” of the mother, a term so broadly defined that basically any situation could qualify.
Providence Journal reports lawmakers recently amended the bill to address concerns that it allows abortions for basically any reason up to birth.
According to the report:
… the reworked bill would require a physician to record in the patient’s medical record the basis for determining that a post-viability abortion was necessary.
The reworked bill also “makes it clear there are consequences if that decision was not made appropriately,” including revocation or suspension of a physician’s license to practice medicine.
The bill still repeals the state fetal homicide law, but the newly amended version creates a new felony-assault category that allows charges against an individual whose assault on a pregnant woman results in the “termination of a pregnancy,” according to the report.
Lawmakers also removed a section allowing an older sibling or grandparent to provide consent for an underage girl to have an abortion, rather than her parents, as is currently required by law.
“I cannot stress enough how this is not an expansion,” Senate Judiciary Chairwoman Erin Lynch Prata said Monday. “What we are looking to do is codify the status quo, which encompasses all of the case law.”
However, pro-life leaders said this is not true. 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.”
Most residents do not support the legislation. The pro-life organization pointed to a recent WPRI/RWU poll that showed “ the overwhelming majority of Rhode Islanders oppose what this legislation does.”
ACTION: Contact Rhode Island state senators here. Call Senate Leadership: Senate President at 401-222-6655, Majority Leader at 401-222-3310.