Rhode Island lawmakers pushed forward a radical pro-abortion bill Thursday after Democrats transferred the legislation to a new committee that they were sure would pass it.
ABC News 6 reports the controversial bill passed the state Senate Health and Human Services Committee in an 8-2 vote and now moves to the full state Senate for consideration. A vote is expected Tuesday.
If the bill passes, it would allow late-term abortions on viable unborn babies, including partial-birth and dismemberment abortions. Recent amendments appear to provide some limits on late-term abortions but still allow them for the “health” of the mother, a term so broadly defined that basically any situation could qualify.
Barth Bracy, executive director of the Rhode Island Right to Life Committee, described the legislation as a “New York-style abortion expansion bill.”
“… 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,’” the pro-life organization warned in an email to supporters.
In May, a state Senate committee narrowly defeated the pro-abortion bill, but many suspected that abortion activists would push lawmakers to resurrect the bill. Earlier this month, they did.
“This is just an egregious bill,” pro-life advocate Kara Young told the local news in reaction to the vote Thursday. “It violates every level of decency. It expands abortion, it de–regulates abortion.”
Democrats have been accused of playing political games to push the legislation. Earlier this week, they transferred the bill to a different committee – an unprecedented move – after there were uncertainties about whether it would pass the Senate Judiciary Committee.
A Democratic lawmaker who describes herself as pro-life voted in favor of the bill Thursday, The Providence Journal reports.
State Sen. Elizabeth Crowley said she is pro-life, but she believes the full state Senate should vote on the bill.
“… I am pro-life and if I were asked to give advice [to] a young woman having a baby I would certainly give them alternatives to having an abortion,” Crowley said. “But I have spent the last 24 hours talking with and answering phone calls from many Rhode Islanders … and they have told me some very sad stories about women who have found themselves in a way of pregnancy that they could not – they had to find a means to go away with it. Most of it was because of the fact that they were ill and the child would not survive…”
However, research indicates that most abortions are not because of medical reasons or rape; an overwhelming majority are elective.
State Sen. Elaine Morgan, the Republican Senate minority whip, cast one of the two votes against the bill.
Morgan explained how she could have been aborted because her mother was told that she was “not viable,” according to the report. She said the bill does not define “viability” well, and healthy, viable unborn babies could be aborted in Rhode Island if it passes.
Afterward, abortion activists celebrated the vote, calling it a “historic” occasion.
“We’re so excited,” said Hilary Levey Friedman from the state National Organization for Women chapter. “It has been a quarter of a century since the Rhode Island Senate has acted on this important issue, and so this is truly historic.”
Last week, Democratic lawmakers amended the bill to address concerns by some wavering politicians. The bill still repeals the state fetal homicide law, but the newly amended version includes language creating 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,” state Sen. 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 group pointed to a recent WPRI/RWU poll that showed “ the overwhelming majority of Rhode Islanders oppose what this legislation does.”
If the bill passes the state Senate, the amended version would return to the House for a final vote.