On Wednesday, the Rhode Island state Senate Judiciary Committee voted to protect late-term abortions in a 21-to-17 vote. Following the Senate approval, the bill was sent to Gov. Gina Raimondo, who signed it into law.
As previously reported by Faithwire, the new Rhode Island abortion law, known as the Reproductive Privacy Act, puts the state on par with New York, which voted on a similarly extreme bill earlier this year.
The new law in Rhode Island codifies the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, allowing women to choose to abort their unborn babies at any point “prior to fetal viability,” according to The Boston Globe. The legislation outlaws abortion after that point except “when necessary to preserve the health or life of that individual.” Similar to the New York bill, the Rhode Island legislation fails to specifically define “health,” which makes the limitation difficult to regulate.
Raimondo acknowledged the debate over abortion access is “controversial,” but said, “I think the majority of Rhode Islanders are for it, which isn’t to say it’s not controversial. But I believe it’s the right thing to do.”
NARAL, a leading pro-choice advocacy group, described the vote as a “major victory.”
After the Senate voted on the bill, it was sent Raimondo, who signed the pro-abortion bill into law as supporters cheered her on.
The Rhode Island progressive group The Womxn Project praised the Democratic governor with a tweet Wednesday night.
Getting the bill passed through the Rhode Island Senate has been a tedious process for pro-abortion lawmakers.
After going through the Rhode Island House in March, the bill was sent to the state Senate Judiciary Committee in May, where it was voted down in a 5-4 vote. State Sen. Stephen Archambault, a Democrat, voted against the bill, calling for revisions to be made.
After the failed vote, state Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, also a Democrat, said, “There is opportunity for further action.”
“I 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,″ Ruggerio said.
The bill was revised. However, in an unexpected move June 11, Democratic lawmakers — hoping to sidestep Republican opposition — moved a vote on the bill from the Senate Judiciary Committee to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, according to the Globe.
Senate Judiciary Chair Erin Lynch Prata, a Democrat, told the newspaper the bill was moved out of her committee because a number of Republican state senators decided to invoke their “ex-officio” rights, which allows lawmakers of either major party to step in and vote in any committee.
Ruggerio, who initially opposed the abortion rights bill, defended the decision to shift the vote to a new committee, arguing his Republican colleagues were attempting “an unprecedented last-minute political stunt to torpedo the bill.”
“I implored Republican leadership not to undermine the hard work of the Senate Judiciary Committee by abusing their powers as ex-officio members,” he added.
It should be noted lawmakers faced strong opposition from the Roman Catholic Church. According to data from the Pew Research Center, 42 percent of Rhode Islanders are Catholic.
Thomas Tobin, bishop of Providence, tweeted Wednesday he is “praying fervently today that God will enlighten the minds and hearts of R.I. state senators to vote against the horrible, extreme pro-abortion legislation being considered today.”
“The JFK Democrats are rapidly losing their party,” said Tyler Rowley, president of Servants of Christ for Life. “The extreme progressives have dragged them to the brink of infanticide at the expense of the lives of innocent human beings.”
“All pro-life Rhode Islanders,” he added, “have a moral duty to run for General Assembly seats and support the true pro-life candidates.”