Rhode Island Right to Life has come out in support for David Hanos, endorsing him in the Senate District 13 primary to be held in Newport and Jamestown this Tuesday, July 18. But Hanos, the Senate District 13 Democratic Committee endorsed candidate, said during a recent forum that he is “undecided” on the issue of reproductive rights.
That’s the answer Hanos gave when he was directly asked by NPR reporter Ian Donnis, “Do you support creating a separate Rhode Island law that would guarantee a woman’s right to an abortion?”
Hanos paused in deep thought for a few seconds before eventually answering with “undecided.” Every other Democratic primary candidate, David Allard, Dawn Euer and John Florez, answered with an unequivocal “Yes,” as did independent candidate Kimberly Ripoli. Dawn Euer is the Planned Parenthood endorsed candidate in the race.
The answer Hanos gave seemed to surprise Republican candidate Michael Smith who said, “I guess if I can say undecided…” as his answer. Rhode Island Right to Life has describe Smith as “pro-Life” in their literature.
Hanos is a Newport firefighter, small business owner, and chair of the Newport School Committee. He has been endorsed by former Senate president Teresa Paiva-Weed, who stepped down from her seat to work in the private sector, necessitating the special election.
I had a brief phone conversation with Hanos to try and clarify his position and to determine why Rhode Island Right to Life would throw an endorsement at someone who is undecided.
“I got a couple of calls from some pro-life people yesterday wanting me to clarify why I said ‘undecided’ to [that question]” said Hanos, “I told them Planned Parenthood does a wonderful job educating our kids and having them practice safe sex, you know what I mean? Make sure you protect yourselves and things of that nature.
“I’d rather not make [reproductive rights] an issue because it’s an extremely sensitive issue that hasn’t been the main topic of this whole race. Why it’s coming up as the main topic is perplexing to me all of a sudden in the 11th hour – it’s like some camp got a little – I don’t know. I don’t know why it’s becoming an issue within two days of this thing.”
“So let me ask you this, then,” I said. “Was Roe v Wade a good decision?”
“At the time I guess it was a good decision,” said Hanos, after some exasperated laughter. “Things have changed. That’s forty some odd years ago and there are differences of opinion now. We have a completely different group of people who can vote, currently.
“I think there’s certain things the feds and the states need to keep themselves out of,” Hanos continued. “These are very personal issues. I’m going to have to say I can’t comment on that. It’s too late in the race. I’m not going to do that to myself. It’s not fair. There’s no way I’m going to commit to an answer, ‘yes-no,’ [on] Roe v Wade. That’s not my issue right now in Rhode Island. My issues right now are clearly jobs, education…”
“But this issue could come up next year if you’re in the Senate,” I said. “Thousands of women have petitioned both houses of the General Assembly to pass state-wide legislation that would codify the protections of Roe v Wade into state law.”
“I don’t think that’s going to happen up there,” said Hanos. “Don’t forget, this is our first election since the presidential election, so let’s see what the voter turnout will be. This certainly has energized a lot of people to make the correct choices when voting about who they want in there.
“I’m the guy who’s going to be weighing it all out and work out some sort of a law that I think everybody can live with. I don’t want it to be so divided and some issues just are and it just may be that they’re on my side they’re on your side and there is no middle ground.
“Every single tough issue that I’ve dealt with, usually I can find some common ground. I think we can find a satisfactory law that protects the woman’s rights as well as the folks that think the government should over reach and tell them that they cannot have that choice.
“Let’s take guns, for instance. It’s an easier issue because you’re not talking about a human life. I guess you are, in a sense, if the gun were to kill somebody… They said they didn’t want weapons in schools. That was an issue that was tough.
“Last year, when that issue came up legislatively, I voted against it. As a member of the school committee I voted ‘no.’ This round, they actually changed and modified the law, where they included that peace officers and other people could actually carry guns in schools. The first law said absolutely not. This one was better.
“I like to work where we can get a little bit more in the middle, that’s all.”