In March, on a 44-30 vote, the Rhode Island House of Representatives approved legislation that would codify abortion rights in our state. Last week, however, the Judiciary Committee in the state Senate voted that measure down on a 5-4 vote.
The committee’s vote was a deeply disappointing and unfortunate turn of events. We hope lawmakers can find a means to bring the proposal back up for consideration before the legislature’s current session ends and that they act to protect a woman’s right to choose here in Rhode Island.
The rights of women to make reproductive health care decisions in consultation with their doctors has been the law of the land since the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. Public opinion surveys have found widespread support for abortion being legal, both nationally and in the Ocean State.
Nonetheless, the recent passage of highly restrictive abortion laws in a number of states – including Alabama, which has adopted a law that represents a virtual ban on abortions – points to a renewed effort to overturn Roe v. Wade through legal challenges.
Some have argued that because the Roe v. Wade decision remains the law of the land, Rhode Island does not need to act. But women in our state deserve to know they are protected, particularly in a political climate as charged and fluid as today’s. They deserve to know that their leaders value their rights. They deserve to know that their autonomy over their bodies and their health care decisions will not be infringed upon, no matter what occurs nationally.
We understand the sensitivity of the issue. We understand and respect the objections of those who find abortion at odds with their faith. It is as much their right to hold and express their views as it is the right of any woman to make her own health care decisions.
We also understand that the decision to seek an abortion is one no woman makes lightly. It is a deeply personal choice, and one that deserves to be made with safely with proper medical attention.
We applaud the example set by House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, who has spoken about his personal opposition to abortion but ensured the House measure received consideration. The people of Rhode Island have spoken loudly and clearly on this issue – and it is time our leaders act to heed their calls.