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Status-quo, pro-choice
abortion law in Rhode Island:

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2019-JUN-19: An abortion bill passed the Legislature and became law:

The Rhode Island Senate voted 21 to 17 in favor of an abortion access bill.The House voted 45 to 29 in favor.

During the debate, Senator Sandra Cano (D-Pawtucket), who describes herself as a Roman “... Catholic and pro-life" politician, voted in favor of the bill. She said that she:

"... believes that life is sacred” [and that her faith is] very important. ...However, I also believe that Roe v. Wade is the law of the land and I can’t impose my faith on others." 3

Rev. Bernard Healey, director of the Rhode Island Catholic Conference, issued a statement saying that the bill's passage is:

"... a sad day for Rhode Island, and a tragedy for thousands of defenseless unborn. ... We applaud the 17 senators who, by voting no, exposed the truth that this is much more than a mere confirmation of the status quo. Rather, the surprisingly close vote reflects the degree to which legislators knew in their private thoughts that this bill significantly expands abortion in Rhode Island." 2

He referred to the bill as a:

"... very temporary set-back. We will continue to oppose the prevailing culture of death in our society and faithfully and joyfully proclaim the goodness and beauty of life! God bless you!" 2

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo (D) signed the state's Reproductive Privacy Act. It says, in part:

"Neither the state, or any of its agencies, or political subdivisions shall restrict an individual person from preventing, commencing, continuing, or terminating that individual’s pregnancy prior to fetal viability." 1

It also states that late-term abortions, after the fetus is viable, are normally prohibited, and only permitted if the mother's health or life is at risk.

The Governor said that the bill is the:

"... right thing to do." 

"When this bill becomes law, women and their families across Rhode Island will be free from the fear that the reproductive health care they need today will be illegal tomorrow, We owe this certainty to every Rhode Island woman, -- and the bill before me today provides exactly that."

She also said:

“... there are good and principled people on both sides of the issue.

But in light of all the uncertainty in Washington, and frankly, around the country in many other states, there is a great deal of anxiety that … a woman’s right to access reproductive healthcare is in danger." 2

star image The Governor also said that the bill:

"... codifies what has been the status quo under Roe v. Wade for nearly five decades. It protects a woman's access to reproductive health care here in Rhode Island at a time when that access is under threat at the federal level and in states across the country." 3

Senator Jessica de La Cruz (R) said:

"History will not look kindly on us." 1

The new law does not increase women's access to abortion in Rhode Island beyond what the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Roe V. Wade granted in early 1973. It appears to have been passed only to preserve existing access in the event that Roe v, Wade is overturned in the future.

Webmaster's comment:

Rhode Islander's should not fear a loss of access to reproductive health care, at least for now. Rhode Island (nicknamed The Ocean State and Little Rhody) is only 77 km (48 miles) in length by 60 km (37 miles) in width. It is the smallest state in the U.S. It shares a border with Connecticut, Massachutts, and New York states. Thus, abortion access would have to be restricted in all four states before women's access would be significantly impeded, assuming that the woman seeking an aborton has access to a car.

Barth Bracy, executive director of the Rhode Island Right to Life Committee, referred to the new law as a:

"New York-style abortion expansion bill."

The Committee issued a statement saying that:

"These powers and principalities of the General Assembly have now completely revealed themselves as the architects and actors behind this extreme abortion expansion, all the while continuing the pretense that they are pro-life --- a historic and monstrous betrayal."

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List referred to one of their public opinion polls which had found that 73 percent of Rhode Island voters oppose late-term abortions in general. She said:

"More than three in four Ocean State voters -- Democrats, Independents, women, and a strong majority of self-described pro-choice voters -- agree [that] expanding late-term abortions is too extreme." 1

Webmaster's comment:

The law allows late term abortions when the fetus is viable and able to live outside the womb, but only if the mother's "health" would be endangered if the pregnancy continues. However, access remains unchanged in Rhode Island, because the law merely confirms what the U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled in Roe v, Wade.

The Susan B. Anthony List's survey indicates opposition to late term abortions in general, whether the woman's health or life is endangered or not.

The survey indicates 73% opposition. Marjorie Dannenfelser cites the survey as "more than 75%" of voters are opposed."

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Mikaela Mathews, "Rhode Island Signs Law Permitting Abortions up to Birth," Christian Headlines, 2019-JUN-24, at:
  2. J.D. Flynn, "Catholic governor signs law enshrining abortion access," Catholic News Agency, 2019-JUN-20, at:
  3. Caroline Kelly,"Rhode Island governor signs abortion protection bill," CNN, 2019-JUN-20, at:

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Copyright © 2019 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2019-JUN-28
Author: B.A. Robinson
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