The Rhode Island Senate Judiciary Committee voted Tuesday to reject a bill that would have codified the right to abortion into state law. With a vote of 5-4, the Reproductive Health Care Act was determined based on the swing vote of Democratic Sen. Stephen Archambault. The committee is comprised of eight Democrats and one Republican. However, the fight isn’t over yet.
The bill would have allowed abortion up to birth under the guise of protecting women’s health, and aimed to do away with spousal notification before an abortion as well as the state’s ban on partial-birth abortion. It also removed protections for preborn children killed in an accident or violent attack on the mother. This bill was pushed by Planned Parenthood of Southern New England which previously announced that codifying “the right to abortion in state law” of Rhode Island was one of its 2019 goals.
Archambault had announced on Monday that he couldn’t support the bill as it is written and that Sen. Gayle Goldin (D), the bill’s sponsor, had turned down his proposal for alternative language.
“While I am pro-choice, I do believe in reasonable restrictions on abortions, once a pregnancy moves beyond viability,” Archambault said in a statement on Facebook. “Simply put, viability means when a fetus is so close to fully formed that it is likely to be able to survive outside the womb – if born. Reasonable restrictions are permissible under Roe v. Wade as currently interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court.”
He added that he “cannot support post-viability abortions that are based on undefined ‘health’ reasons and would permit very late term, up to date of birth, abortions.” He said those bills go “too far.”
Sen. Frank Lombardi (D) said that he voted against the bill because Roe v. Wade “still is the law of the land until and unless it is overturned. … So I say to you the certitude of it getting overturned after 50 years of jurisprudence I think is actually speculative at this point.”
However, in addition to the Reproductive Health Care Act (which had passed in the House), the Senate also considered a different abortion bill Tuesday. The Reproductive Privacy Act was introduced by Rep. Anastasia Williams (D) in the House and passed with amendments there. This bill also allows abortion up until birth but does not look to end restrictions on abortion that are already in place in the state. Planned Parenthood did not support this bill.
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted Tuesday to hold the Reproductive Privacy Act, meaning it could still be passed during this legislative session.
“It is clear that there is not sufficient support to pass the bill as it stands out of committee. By holding the House version of the bill for further study today, there is an opportunity for further action,” said Senate President Dominick Ruggerio (D). “I will ask all parties to continue working together to see if amended language can be developed that will pass committee and be brought to the floor.”
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