The Woman Project and Indivisible Rhode Island delivered a digital copy of the massive 4 foot by 53 foot petition in support of the Reproductive Health Care Act (H5343/S0274) to Rhode Island House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello at his Cranston law office, 681 Park Avenue, Thursday at noon.
A dozen women, some with children in tow, carried the 4 foot by 53 foot long petition, in two parts, from Cranston City Hall to Mattiello’s law office. Upon arriving, two women, Jordan Hevenor and Rachel Jarosz, entered the office building and knocked on the Speaker’s office door. There was no answer and the door was locked, so they slid paper petitions and a digital copy of the larger petition under the door.
“Indivisible has been requesting a conversation on this issue with Speaker Mattiello since May 23, but he has refused to meet with us,” said Jarosz. “The majority of Rhode Islanders support a woman’s right to autonomy over their own bodies and their right to privacy in making their health care decisions. We are only asking that the Speaker bring a bill that preserves those rights to the floor for a vote before this legislative session closes. Since he will not meet with us at the statehouse, we will take our concerns to his law office.”
Following that presentation, some members of the group delivered a copy of the petition to the statehouse office of Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, who has met with Indivisible RI.
You can watch the petition delivery in Cranston in the video below:
The Reproductive Health Care Act, introduced by Representative Edith Ajello in the House and Senator Gayle Goldin in the Senate, would ensure safe and legal access to abortion services in Rhode Island, by codifying the protections provided by Roe v Wade.
In a statement, the two groups offered this history to demonstrate the need for passing this legislation:
In 1973, the US Supreme Court recognized a woman’s constitutional right to abortion. In subsequent decisions, the Court reaffirmed that right, holding that a state cannot ban abortion before viability, and that any restriction on abortion after viability must contain exceptions to protect the life and health of the woman. The Court has also held that any pre-viability abortion restriction cannot create an ‘undue burden’ on a woman seeking an abortion.
“Nonetheless, in 1997, the Rhode Island General Assembly enacted a ban that outlaws abortion procedures as early as 12 weeks. Rhode Island law also makes any abortion procedure that falls within a broad definition a felony. The law has an exception if an abortion is necessary to preserve the life of a woman endangered by a physical disorder, physical illness, or physical injury, including a life-endangering condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself, and no other medical procedure will suffice. A court held that Rhode Island’s ban was unconstitutional and issued a permanent injunction prohibiting its enforcement. The laws remain on the books.”
The Woman Project began collecting signatures on their giant petition during the Our Voice, Our Choice: An Art-In for Reproductive Health Rights in Rhode Island event at the State House. Since then the petition has been a fixture in the State House rotunda and in six weeks has garnered 500 plus signatures.