Protecting Roe: What Every Rhode Islander Can Do

It’s been 40 years since the U.S. Supreme Court confirmed that the constitutionally protected right to privacy includes every woman’s right to make her own personal medical decisions, without the interference of politicians – including the right to end a pregnancy. Leading up to today there has been a lot of talk about the next generation of abortion rights activists and whether or not millennials appreciate the hard fought right to a safe and legal abortion.

Speaking as a “millennial” myself, I can say that young women value the impact of Roe but recognize that the present day conversation rests within issues of sexual identity, health insurance coverage for birth control with no co-pays and the need to push past labels like “pro-choice” and “pro-life.”  It’s clear to me that the next generation of activists is ready and willing to build off the hard work of those who’ve come before us – and expand the conversation to those who have felt left out of the “choice” conversation for too long.

Forty years may have passed but Planned Parenthood’s mission remains the same: to protect the fundamental right of all individuals to manage their own fertility and sexual health and to ensure access to the services, education and information to realize that right. In Rhode Island, we recognize the need to not only protect the right to abortion but also to ensure access to a wide range of reproductive health care – including well woman exams, STI testing and treatment and access to all methods of contraception from the pill to intrauterine devices.

So, although Planned Parenthood advocates for access to a wide range of preventative family planning programs, Rhode Island lags behind our New England neighbors when it comes to unintended pregnancy rates.  Even though we know that for every dollar invested in family planning services, the state saves $3.75, we’re forced to waste time fighting unnecessary, shaming legislation like mandatory-waiting periods and ultrasounds.

Rhode Island is one of 22 states – and the only state in New England – that the Guttmacher Institute designates as “hostile” to women’s reproductive health.   NARAL Pro-Choice America gives Rhode Island a D+ rating on their national score card.  How could this be you might ask?  Rhode Island has dozens of archaic laws on the book some of which include:

  • An unconstitutional and unenforceable criminal ban on abortion;
  • “Informed consent” laws that subject women seeking abortion to biased-counseling requirements;
  • Restrictive insurance coverage of abortion for some (state employees) and unenforceable laws that restrict private insurance coverage for abortion for all;
  • Laws that allow certain individuals, health care providers and entities to refuse to provide specific reproductive health services, referrals or information including information and prescriptions for birth control.

It’s time that the Rhode Island legislature understand that investing in prevention and comprehensive sex education is the only proven way to address unintended pregnancy.  We encourage you to take action and share your stories with friends, family members and elected officials.  To get you started, here are three actions you can take today:

  1. Contact your state legislatorsTell them to support access to preventative family planning programs and NOT to support shaming legislation like mandatory ultrasounds or any politically motivated abortion ban.
  2. Tell Planned Parenthood your story One in five women have visited a Planned Parenthood in their lifetime.  With anti-choice politicians determined to take away women’s access to healthcare, it’s never been more important to share your story and show that Planned Parenthood is a vital organization in your community.
  3. Join the Planned Parenthood Action Network.  Stay informed about current events and legislation on the national and state level.

Paula Hodges is the Public Policy & Advocacy Director for Planned Parenthood Southern New England and Planned Parenthood Votes! Rhode Island.

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11 responses to “Protecting Roe: What Every Rhode Islander Can Do”

  1. Solomon

    Taking ideas to their logical conclusions is the responsibility of every commentator, blogger, reporter…writers of every kind who write about reality (rather than writers of fiction).

    With that said how does anyone involved with an abortion justify killing a human being?

    Is the zygote or fetus something other than human? I am not going to preach to you about the science of life. Any intelligent person knows that when an abortion occurs a human life is ended.

    Can anyone refute this?

    When I read Sarah Weddington’s words, “It is unthinkable to allow complete strangers, whether individually or collectively as state legislators or others in government, to make such personal decisions for someone else,” and I apply her words to the 50 million human lives that have been ended by “Roe” I have to ask how anyone can agree to the wholesale destruction of this many people and still sleep well at night.

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  2. Steve Ahlquist

    @Solomon: A zygote or fetus is genetically human, but to call small amounts of human tissue “human beings” is fallacious. There is in fact a difference between human tissue and human cells and a human being. When I give blood, the cells and tissue taken from my body are human, but no one would confuse a pint of blood for a human being.
    For religious reasons, you may certainly feel that a human soul is somehow formed or merges with the fertilized egg upon conception, but this is a religious belief, and there are many who believe that the soul doesn’t enter into the question until the quickening (when the fetus first starts to move) or birth, or even some time after birth. All these ideas about when the soul enters into the body are equally valid, and equally empty, because no one person’s religious beliefs, and no one group’s religious beliefs are more important or valid than anyone else’s.
    I suspect you know this, which is why you play word games with the definition of human and human being rather than simply argue that we all simply follow your religion.

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  3. Solomon

    Steve: Thanks for your response.
    Except for calling the zygote and fetus genetically human, the first part of your response isn’t a valid argument since you take the phrase “small amounts of human tissue” and then try to equate both the fetus and your blood cells as if they are only “human tissue”. A fetus is a genetically complete human being. It just needs time to grow and develop into a fully, self sustaining entity. Your blood cells would remain as they are. I think any sensible person would agree that a living fetus and a pint of blood, though human tissue, are not the same.

    The second part is an attempt to change the debate from a philosophical one to a religious one. Thanks for posing all the variations and concluding, all by yourself, that they are all equally invalid.

    My question remains unanswered. Why do you think that is?

    Here is why I think you won’t answer. Any answer in the negative would prove the ignorance of the person answering. There are but few on this blog who might venture to agree that the life that is ended when an abortion occurs is indeed a human life. You don’t have to think about this very long to know that this is true, religion notwithstanding.

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  4. leftyrite

    Answer me this: Was the Pope a Hitler Youth, or was he not?

    Has he resigned under the pressure of a scandal that began last spring–or is he just too old and infirm to continue?

    Did the butler know too much? 

    May the Vatican banking system be compared honorably to that of Wall Street?

    Are we going to debate a woman’s right to choose for the one trillionth time, or are we not going to take the bait?

    Feudalism may have been divine at one time. Now, it’s ridiculous.

    And give back the satin shawl and matching shoes–particularly if you oppose gay marriage. 

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    1. Solomon

      leftyrite: I have no idea if the Pope was Hitler Youth or not. Maybe there should be a trial with a jury of his peers.
      Can you answer my question? It’s simple and has nothing to do with religion of any kind.
      Logic is quietly and relentlessly pushing the buttons, and there is nothing any of us can do about it.
      Every time an abortion occurs a human life is taken. This is a fact only a fool would deny.

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  5. leftyrite


    Welcome to the world of facts. The notion that Benedict may or may not have been a Hitler Youth is not a matter for you to weigh and decide. It’s a fact.

    Granted, he was in grade school at the time. But, he was, unquestionably, a Hitler Youth.

    Your tired query about when life starts is actually a mask for the misogynistic belief that, once impregnated, a woman should be compelled to bear a child. That she should become a human incubator, even against her will.

    What about her life? What about her mental and emotional health?

    She should let your churchmen decide? Please. Look at the papers and start there.

    Compelling women seems to be a big theme with quite a few guys. (You big macho hunks, you.)

    For me, the question about a woman’s right to choose was solved long ago.

    It’s a civil question that has been answered and will continue to be answered in the same manner by women again and again– unless the game is rigged, which, of course, is possible.

    The Catholics that I know are much more open-minded than you seem to be, more in tune with Dorothy Day and John XXIII than with Mel Gibson and our recently resigned Benedict.

    I also admire Mother Theresa of Calcutta, who diagnosed our situation aright.

    The worst kind of poverty is spiritual poverty, poverty of the human spirit.

    Be a real man. Admit that we live in a civil society and stop dragging your religion through the state house door.

    Respect women and their right to choose.

    (I know that I’m talking to the wall.)

    Hey, how about Sarah Silverman’s sister getting arrested for “upsetting the orthodox” by praying at the Wailing Wall? She’s alright with leftyrite for sure.




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  6. cailin rua

    Isn’t the question being raised the question of when “ensoulment” begins.  Don’t all three Abrahamic religions have varying opinions on the subject?  Wasn’t Thomas Aquinas a philosopher and Aristotle and Pythagoras, too?  Didn’t they all say ensoulment didn’t begin until forty days after conception for a male and sixty days for a female?  What is one to conclude from that?  Didn’t it take the Catholic Church until the mid-nineteenth century to deny all this and insist ensoulment began at conception?  What was that pronouncement based on?  Papal infallibility?

    So, blood cells are are not the same as the cells that begin to differentiate in a blastocyst. Maybe that comparison doesn’t hold up.  Is it logical to conclude from that that ensoulment begins at the moment of conception?

    How tiny can the tiniest particle of the Eucharist be and still contain the complete body of Christ? Is an acorn an oak tree?  

    The Catholic Church uses the writings of Tertullian to justify its stance on ensoulment.  Tertullian was a typically misogynist and anti-semitic Patristic writer in the early Christian Church.  If one looks at the history of where the Catholic Church has stood on the question of ensoulment, that justification is at odds with the facts.

    If this is a “philosophical question” why does Wikipedia say:

    “However, in its official declarations, the Catholic Church avoids taking a position on the philosophical question of the moment when a human person begins to be:” 

    There are two big issues involved here –  The first is Self determination.  No Pope has ever gotten pregnant but they want control over everything and everyone.  More than anything, they want control over a woman’s body because they want the greatest power that exists, the power over life itself.  The next big issue involved is divine right.  It is only logical to conclude that if ones power and knowledge comes from an omnipotent and omniscient God then every proclamation you make is true.  That’s logical of course unless you don’t believe in an omniscient and omnipotent God or at least that an omnipotent and omniscient God is not calling the Pope up on the phone everyday to tell him what’s what. 

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  7. leftyrite

    First off, I think that you’re channeling an old Righteous Brothers tune.

    Second, if ensoulment ever becomes big, you’ll have people trying to condominiumize it in no time.
    You’ll live to see ensoulment time-shares if you go that route.

    Please, no more Abrahamic religions. Please, no more moves on the monopoly board.

    Think of what life can be if you are just allowed to follow your bliss, creating nice things along the way. 

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  8. Solomon

    cailin rua:
    My argument isn’t about “ensoulment” my argument is about whether the zygote or fetus is alive and if it is human. I say it is both.
    Your Eucharist and acorn analogies do not correlate. The zygote or fetus is not a tiny part of a separate, single element. It is the union of two single cells, one from the mother and another from the father. I assume you know how the system works. Nor is it like the acorn which has all the potential within itself to become an oak tree. Once the acorn germinates and sends its root into the ground and its first sprouting stem up towards the sun, then it is a very small yet fully viable oak tree. Granted it doesn’t have the look of a 100 year old tree but that is an issue of time not one of botanical certainty.
    My position is simple and logical. When an abortion is done a viable, fully human life is ended. I am advocating for the admission of that fact into the discussion because it is true.

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    1. cailin rua

      Aren’t you speaking about ensoulment when you speak of human life – the “breath of life” that makes a human alive and human?  Different religions have different concepts of what the soul is and isn’t, whether or not it is eternal, when the “breath of life” enters the body, etc.  

      Initially, I didn’t realize how often the acorn is used as an analogy in this discussion.  Apparently, there are similarities between an acorn and a zygote but the zygote is only one cell.  An acorn is composed of billions of cells.  It takes time for a blastocyst to develop and about 4 to 5 days to implant itself in the uterine wall, though.  I don’t understand what you mean by “viable”.  A zygote outside the womb or outside the medium used in in vitro fertilization is not viable.  Either is a fetus up until a certain stage of development.  But that is not the only question where abortion is concerned.  The life of the mother is also a concern.  I believe different religious traditions have differing views on which should have priority.  Why is one opinion superior to another?  What about what happened to Savita Halappanavar at that hospital in Galway? 

      It has occurred to me that these things have been argued over and over again in the courts.  I don’t really think either of us has all that much to add to what already has been hashed out.  I seldom agree with most religious leaders but I have a lot of respect for the scholars in all traditions.  They put a lot of time into studying these things.  There is a lot of disagreement.  That is the reason for a pro-choice policy, so the individual can to come to terms with their beliefs without having another’s beliefs imposed upon them. History has shown too often what results when people impose their beliefs on others unwillingly.  That is the reason for the state of R I.  

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  9. leftyrite

    OK, I was wrong on the condos.

    We’re starting an arboretum now. 

    Can’t create any gaps in our imaginary landscape, can we?

    We care so, so much for those little acorns.

    They all become beloved oaks, you know. Every single one.

    You wonder how any kid could possibly become a lifelong orphan.

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