Wild statements from the Providence Catholic Diocese, RI Right to Life and Republican leaders in the RI General Assembly have forced some representatives, including Joseph McNamara (District 19, Warwick, Cranston), who serves as chairman of the House Health Education and Welfare Committee, to issue a statement calling out the misinformation. At issue is House Bill 5343, which would codify the tenets of Roe v Wade in to Rhode Island state law.
The bill, introduced by Representative Edie Ajello, (District 1, Providence), is needed because under a Donald Trump/Michael Pence Supreme Court, Roe v Wade could be overturned, which would send the issue of legalized abortion back to the individual states. Currently, Rhode Island law does nothing to protect a woman’s access to safe and legal abortion.
Republican Representative Patricia Morgan (District 26; Coventry, Warwick and West Warwick), said the bill “takes away the ability of any government agency, including the Department of Health, to oversee abortion procedures. As a result, women’s health could be compromised. If passed, this law would allow anyone to perform an abortion — without restriction.”
“I’m concerned about the level of misinformation that’s out there regarding this bill,” said McNamara, “I have received emails and seen printed materials that suggest the law would allow for unregulated and unrestricted abortion on demand. This is simply untrue. Rather, it would safeguard the concept that medical decisions are between a patient, her physician and her family. It also preserves the medical and legal concept of ‘fetal viability.’”
Some of the misinformation McNamara is talking about comes from a February 9 piece in The Rhode Island Catholic. In the piece, Providence Catholic Diocese lobbyist, Bernard Healey, slurred medical practitioners who offer abortion services while mischaracterizing the legislation as, “a radical attempt to remove all state regulation from the unethical and questionable practices of abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood and the Kermit Gosnells of the Ocean State. Removing this regulation by the state disregards the health and safety of thousands of women and children in Rhode Island.”
Representative David Bennett (District 20, Warwick, Cranston), who also cosponsored the legislation, said “Roe v Wade has been the norm and the law for more than 40 years. It is a well-established precedent, and we want to ensure that it will continue being the law in Rhode Island, regardless of what happens in Washington. Claims that it would allow for unregulated and unrestricted abortions is nonsense, since it clearly states that abortions could not be performed after the point of fetal viability.”
Bennett might be responding to the words of Barth Bracy, executive director of Rhode Island Right to Life, who wrote, “Amongst other very serious issues, the bill would prohibit the State of Rhode Island from banning any ‘method’ of abortion, even partial birth abortion, [and] allow abortions beyond our longstanding ‘quickening’ threshold, potentially allowing abortions all the way up until birth, leaving the determination of viability solely to the discretion of the abortionist.”
The Rhode Island bill that would codify Roe v Wade does not do what Bracy, Healey or Morgan claim it will. In response to the wild charges, McNamara, Bennett and Representative Evan Shanley (District 24, Warwick) have issued a joint statement saying that “they would be happy to address the concerns of any constituents regarding the legislation. They also indicated that are open to changing the language in the bill to ensure that no one is able to misinterpret it.”
“I certainly appreciate the concerns of those who are alarmed by the false information they have heard about this bill,” said Shanely, “What I don’t appreciate is those who knowingly spread this misinformation in the first place. Claiming that this bill would radically change state law is untrue and irresponsible. It would not affect existing state law. It would not change the requirement of parental consent for minors, nor would it change anything related to the licensing of health care facilities.”