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Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Choice groups line up behind revised bill to protect Roe rights

Revised Reproductive Privacy Act properly codifies Roe into state law

Image result for protect roe v wadeThe Rhode Island Coalition for Reproductive Freedom issued the following statement:

“The Reproductive Privacy Act (H5125B) achieves the goal of preserving the current legal framework protecting the right to safe, legal abortion as it exists today under Roe v Wade, subsequent United States Supreme Court decisions, and Rhode Island law.

“The Rhode Island Coalition for Reproductive Freedom is grateful to Senate Judiciary Chair Erin Lynch Prata (Democrat, District 31, Warwick, Cranston)and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio (Democrat, District 4, Providence) for their leadership in bringing this bill to a vote. It is clear that they listened to the concerns of their colleagues, addressed them in the legislation, while maintaining the goal of protecting access to safe, legal abortion in Rhode Island.

“The Rhode Island Coalition for Reproductive Freedom and our partner organizations are in strong support of H5125B.

“This is a monumental moment in Rhode Island. It has been more than a quarter century since the 1993 version of this bill passed out of the House of Representatives, but failed to be acted on in the Senate. 

"With states around the country passing abortion bans intended to create a Supreme Court case to challenge abortion rights — the Rhode Island Senate is poised to make history by passing the Reproductive Privacy Act (H5125B). We call on the Senate Judiciary Committee to vote this bill out of committee and send it to the Senate floor for a vote by the entire Senate.”

Check out this piece at The Public’s Radio by Ian Donnis, who has the inside scoop with statements from Senate Judiciary Chair Lynch Prada and committee member Stephen Archambault (Democrat, District 22, Smithfield, Johnston, North Providence), whose vote against the Senate version of the bill killed it in committee.

Donnis, per Prata, outlines three changes to the legislation:

  1. A doctor who performs an abortion after fetal viability will be required to record the basis for why it was necessary for the the life or health of the woman.
  2. An assault by another person on a pregnant woman resulting in the loss of a fetus would be specifically considered a felony assault. That would not pertain to medical professionals operating under the bill known as the Reproductive Privacy Act.
  3. Finally, the bill omits an expansion of the type of family members who could offer consent for an abortion for a minor.
Also check out this piece by Katherine Gregg at the Providence Journal.

Due to some questions about the legilsative process at work here, I wrote the following:

A quick and dirty explainer on how the House and Senate in the Rhode Island General Assembly pass a bill

To pass a bill, it must be introduced to the House or Senate, go through the Committee process, be voted out of Committee, then passed on the floor of the House. (Though there are exceptions to this, I won’t get into that here.)

The bill is then sent to the Senate, where it goes through the Committee process, then to the Senate floor for a full vote, and finally to the Governor’s desk where it is either signed, vetoed, or allowed to become law without a signature.

Of course, a bill can be introduced in the Senate, then sent to the House for approval on its way to the Governor as well.

Sometimes a bill is introduced in both Chambers of the General Assembly at pretty much the same time. This accomplishes two things:

It speeds up the process. The Committee and Floor process does not have to be completed in one chamber before the other chamber can take up the bill

Senators and Representatives can put their name on the bills as sponsors, which is good for their fame, egos and fundraising.

When the bills are identical, they go right to the Governor’s desk. But when the bills have changes in language which makes them different enough that there may be some ambiguity, the bills need to go back to the original Chamber to be revoted on. Usually these revotes are pretty quick and easy affairs. Sometimes, if the changes have a big effect on the legislation, not.

In the case of the efforts to codify Roe v Wade into Rhode ISland State Law, here is what happened:
Identical bills entitled the Reproductive Health Care Act (RHCA) were introduced into both the House and the Senate. 

In the House, another bill, The Reproductive Privacy Act (RPA), was also introduced. The House did not pass the RHCA. The RPA was revised, called Sub A, and passed.

The Senate RHCA was then altered by the sponsor to have language identical to the RPA. This was too make the process of getting the two bills into accord easier, so that passage would be smoothed on the way to the Governor’s desk.

The Senate Committee voted on the Senate RHCA and killed it, but held the House RPA for further study. They reworked the bill and tomorrow will vote on a second revision, called a Sub B.

If the Senate Committee votes the RPA Sub B out of Committee, it will go to the Senate floor. If passed off the Senate floor, it will go back to the House floor so that the changes the Senate made can be approved.

If all that happens, then Governor Gina Raimondo has indicated that she intends to sign the bill into law.

The Rhode Island Coalition for Reproductive Freedom (RICRF) is a coalition of organizations, working together to share resources, build strategies and coordinate efforts to connect reproductive freedom with social and economic justice. RICRF protects and advances access to reproductive health care through advocacy and legislative action.

American Civil Liberties Union of RI, American Congress of Obstetricians, RI Chapter, Catholics for Choice, The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health, Hope and Change for Haiti, Humanists of Rhode Island, Indivisible RI, League of Women Voters, RI, Medical Students for Choice, National Council of Jewish Women, RI Chapter, Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, Rhode Island Working Families Party, RI Coalition Against Domestic Violence, RI Democratic Women for Leadership, RI National Association of Social Workers, RI National Organization for Women, RI Religious Coalition for Reproductive Freedom, The Womxn Project, Women’s Health and Education Fund, Women’s Fund of Rhode Island

Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for half a decade.Uprise RI is his new project, and he's doing all he can to make it essential reading.