Those advocating for a Constitutional Convention who are saying that there is no threat to human and civil rights ignore our history. The pledges of these reformers ring hollow to those involved in the fight to protect women’s reproductive health care decisions. By dismissing this concern, “So much for conventions as threats to civil rights” (Patrick Conley “History shows: Don’t fear Convention”, October 31), Conley forgets what dedicated advocates for women’s equity never can.
The 1986 Convention proposed two amendments to the electorate that treat women as though they are incompetent to make medical decisions without the interference of the state. The “fetal personhood” amendment was rejected by the public, a story told as a testament to the wisdom of RI voters. The second and more insidious amendment was packaged as expanding free speech rights, yet included this line now in our Constitution: “Nothing in this section shall be construed to grant or secure any right relating to abortion or the funding thereof.” This is why women’s health advocates are concerned. The 1986 convention took away rights recognized as protected by the US Constitution.
This is not “political paranoia or constitutional constipation” as Conley would lead you to believe. Organizations such as the ACLU, RI National Organization of Women, the RI Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers and Planned Parenthood are hardly the political insiders concerned about losing influence in the General Assembly. If we want to reform our system of government, let’s do it in a way that does not pose a risk to people’s rights.
Jamie Rhodes of Warwick, is also the Rhode Island Policy Director for Planned Parenthood of Southern New England.