PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The Democratic governor of Rhode Island has signed a bill into law that codifies the “right” to abortion under Roe v. Wade in the state, and allows abortion up to birth to “preserve the health or life” of the mother.
“It’s a difficult issue and there are good and principled people on both sides of the issue,” Gov. Gina Raimondo said during the signing on Wednesday night. “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 healthcare and her right to preserve access reproductive health care is in danger.”
H. 5125, also known as the “Reproductive Privacy Act,” passed the Senate 21-17 on Wednesday, followed by a vote in the House of 45-29.
“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.”
Rhode Island’s bill states, “A physician who performs a termination after fetal viability shall be required to record in the patient’s medical records the basis for the physician’s medical judgment that termination was necessary to preserve the live or health of the patient and must comply with all other relevant requirements applicable to physicians.”
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, 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.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Anastasia Williams, D-Providence, also removes Chapter 11-3 of the criminal statute entitled “Abortion” from the books, which prohibited the inducement of a miscarriage with poison or instrument. A section was later added to criminalize an assault in which the person “knows or has reason to know that the person upon whom the assault or battery is made is pregnant.”
A few Democrats opposed the legislation, including Sen. Frank Lombardo, D-Johnston, who urged his colleagues to do what was right because “we are all children of God and I tell you, we will all be accountable to God for the position of influence that he has given to all of us.”
House Deputy Majority Leader Arthur Corvese, D-North Providence, lamented that the bill “allows the qualified termination of actual or potential innocent human life at any point during the nine-month gestation period right up until birth.”
The group Catholics for Life, also known as Servants of Christ for Life, filed an emergency lawsuit to stop the bill from getting to Gov. Riamondo’s desk, but the request was denied. The case, however, is still active as it addresses a broader question about the legislature’s authority to impose the decision on the people.
“The lawsuit is a complex constitutional challenge relying on not just the specific language prohibiting the grant or securing of an abortion right in Rhode Island, but also relies on the fact that in 2005, the citizens of Rhode Island voted to repeal the plenary powers of the legislature,” the organization told the outlet GoLocal.
“And it’s those powers on which they’re relying to pass this bill without taking it to the people for a vote as is required under our Constitution.”
As previously reported, abortion has been condemned in the pulpit throughout America’s history. In his 1869 sermon entitled “Ante-Natal Infanticide,” E. Frank Howe, the pastor of the Congregational Church of Terre Haute, Indiana, said, “[I]t makes no matter that the victim cannot stretch out its hands in defense … It matters not that it … can utter no cry of pain or reproach. The sacred gift of human life is taken — is deliberately taken, and this constitutes the crime, and that crime is murder.”
He lamented that “men and women place their own ease and pleasure above God’s law” and that “public opinion is so corrupted there is no voice of reproach,” forthrightly declaring, “Put what face upon it the community will, disguise it under whatever name you please, you can make no more or less of it than simple murder.”