The House Committee on the Judiciary will hear proposed bills on reproductive health tomorrow night. The LWVRI, Planned Parenthood, NOW, the Woman Project, the ACLU and other members of the Coalition for Reproductive Freedom, support 5127, The Reproductive Health Care Act, the only bill that will codify Roe v Wade in RI law and remove restrictive and outdated laws from current RI law. It is important to come and bring your LWVRI pins and signs to support H 5127. There is a competing bill, 5125, called the Reproductive Privacy Act, which purports to protect Roe v Wade but in fact weakens its protections. See the analysis by the ACLU below.
Several other bills restricting abortion will be heard as well. THOSE WHO SUPPORT SAFE AND LEGAL ABORTION NEED TO SHOW UP.
H 5127 Reproductive Health Care Act compared with H 5125, Reproductive Privacy Act.
• The only goal of the RHCA is to establish reproductive choice as a right under Rhode Island law in accordance with Roe v. Wade. The RHCA was written to accomplish this goal in two main ways: (1) affirmatively codify the rights established in Roe v. Wade as a right under state law and (2) repeal all state statutes that are unconstitutional under Roe that remain in the R.I. General Laws. However, H-5125, the “Reproductive Privacy Act,” fails to accomplish that fundamental goal.
• Contrary to the RHCA and its basic goal, H-5125 preserves two anti-choice measures previously recognized as unconstitutional: explicitly preserving a revised version of the state’s criminal “quick child” law and implicitly preserving the state’s “Partial Birth Abortion” Act.
• As to the “quick child” law, the RHCA repeals that statute, while H-5125 revises it. Revising the language, instead of repealing it, amounts to a back-door effort to use the bill as a vehicle for “fetal homicide” legislation, which specifically, and problematically, treats a fetus as a person. Such a provision simply has no place in a bill purporting to preserve reproductive freedom.
• In addition, the “quick child” language has not been enforced because of its constitutional problems, yet is given new support by H-5125. Its inclusion would only create ambiguities about the bill’s meaning and applicability.
• Unlike the RHCA, H-5125 also fails to repeal the state’s “partial birth abortion” law, which was definitively declared unconstitutional in 1999. By repealing every other state abortion law that was struck down by the courts and leaving this particular one on the books, H-5125 reinforces legislative support of this unconstitutional law. This is particularly concerning since, unlike the federal law ban that remains applicable in Rhode Island, the state law that H-5125 fails to repeal banned the most common medical procedure used in second-trimester abortions. Although we do not believe unconstitutional laws like this one can be resurrected should the U.S. Supreme Court undermine or reverse Roe, their full repeal was designed to prevent that argument from even being considered.
• H-5125 contains new language requiring compliance with “all applicable federal and state law,” which are not specified. This language could support attacks on reproductive rights by virtue of its open-ended ambiguity. Right now, mandatory federal law — not the law of Rhode Island — preserves reproductive rights. If that changes, new federal restrictions — currently unknown — may be interpreted as mandatory by this vague language, and current state laws could be misapplied to interfere with reproductive rights.
The Reproductive Privacy Act should either be amended to mirror the RHCA, or else rejected in favor of the RHCA, which is the only bill that truly meets the goal of codifying Roe into state law.
(401) 831-7171 | ACLU of RHODE ISLAND | riaclu.org