RI House Committee Approves Bill Codifying Roe Into Law, Removing Criminal Penalties for Causing Death of Unborn

Photo Credit: Daisy Laparra

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — In a city that was founded in 1636 by Baptist theologian Roger Williams, and was named after “God’s merciful providence,” lawmakers in the Rhode Island House Judiciary Committee have approved a bill that codifies the “right” to abortion under Roe v. Wade into law, and also removes a segment from the state’s criminal statutes allowing for the prosecution of a person who causes the death of a woman’s unborn child.

According to reports, the committee voted 9-7 on Tuesday in favor of H. 5125A, also known as “The Reproductive Privacy Act.”

“Neither the state, nor 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,” the bill reads in part.

It also allows for abortions without time limitation, or up until birth, “when necessary to preserve the health or life of that individual.”

The law language reflects the dictates of Roe, in which Justice Harry Blackmun, nominated to the bench by Republican president Richard Nixon, wrote, “If the State is interested in protecting fetal life after viability [written in the ruling to be as early as 24 weeks], it may go so far as to proscribe abortion during that period, except when it is necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.”

However, some have stated that the term “the health of the mother” is a broad catchall, pointing to the companion case of Doe v. Bolton, which explained that “medical judgment may be exercised in the light of all factors—physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age—relevant to the well-being of the patient. All these factors may relate to health.”

A number of OB/GYNs and nurses nationwide have spoken out on such concepts in light of New York’s recent “abortion rights” law, stating that an abortion is never necessary for the health or life or the mother as an emergency C-section will be performed instead in an effort to save both mother and child.

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The “Reproductive Privacy Act,” sponsored by Rep. Anastasia Williams, D-Providence, would also remove from the books Chapter 11-3 of the criminal statute entitled “Abortion.”

The current law states that “[e]very person who, with the intent to procure the miscarriage of any pregnant woman or woman supposed by such person to be pregnant … shall administer to her or cause to be taken by her any poison or other noxious thing, or shall use any instrument or other means whatsoever or shall aid, assist or counsel any person so intending to procure a miscarriage” may be imprisoned up to 20 years if the woman dies and up to 7 years if she lives.

A section of the code explaining the statute also declares:

“It shall be conclusively presumed in any action concerning the construction, application or validity of section 11-3-1, that human life commences at the instant of conception and that said human life at said instant of conception is a person within the language and meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, and that miscarriage at any time after the instant of conception caused by the administration of any poison or other noxious thing or the use of any instrument or other means shall be a violation of said section 11-3-1, unless the same be necessary to preserve the life of a woman who is pregnant.”

Those who voted in favor of the bill are Reps. Robert Craven, D-North Kingstown; Evan Shanley, D-Warwick; Carol Hagan McEntee, D-Narraganset; John Edwards, D-Portsmouth; Julie Casimiro, D-North Kingstown; Joseph Almeida, D-Providence; Dennis Canario, D-Portsmouth; Daniel McKiernan, D-Providence; and James Jackson, D-West Warwick.

Those who voted against the measure are Reps. Christopher Millea, D-Cranston; Camille Vella-Wilkinson, D-Warwick; Arthur Corvese, D-North Providence; Thomas Noret, D-Coventry; David Place, R-Burrillville; Sherry Roberts, R-West Greenwich; and Blake Filippi, R-Block Island.

According to the Providence Journal, Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo is in support of the legislation.

“The governor has had many meetings and conversations with advocates over the past several weeks and has heard from people on all sides of this issue. She has been clear and consistent on her support for codifying existing protections under Roe v. Wade into state law,” her spokesman, Joshua Black, told the outlet.

Conversely, former governor Donald Carcieri, a Republican, has been the voice behind a robocall to residents urging opposition to the abortion bill.

It now moves to the full House for a vote, possibly as early as Thursday.

Read “The Reproductive Privacy Act” in full here.

Ecclesiastes 11:5 states, “As thou knowest not what is the way of the Spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child, even so thou knowest not the works of God, who maketh all.”

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