A Rhode Island Senate committee defeated Tuesday a no-limits abortion bill after four Democratic legislators crossed party lines to vote against it, with one pro-choice Democrat saying that the measure “simply goes too far.”
Pro-choice advocates erupted after the Senate Judiciary Committee killed on a 5-4 vote the Reproductive Health Care Act, with four of the panel’s eight Democrats joining the lone Republican in opposing the bill, which would have removed restrictions on abortion until birth.
The swing vote was pro-choice Democratic state Sen. Stephen Archambault, who said in a statement that “reasonable restrictions are permissible under Roe v. Wade,” but that the bill, S. 152A, went beyond the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.
The Rhode Island measure would have prohibited the state from interfering with late-term abortions if they were needed to “preserve the health or life of the individual.”
“I cannot support post-viability abortions that are based on undefined ‘health’ reasons and would permit very late term, up to date of birth, abortions. It simply goes too far,” Mr. Archambault said.
He said he would propose Wednesday legislation with “common sense safeguards post-viability, limiting late-term abortions.”
The committee left open the possibility that the issue could be reconsidered by holding for further study the identical House companion bill, which was approved 44-30 in March.
Even so, angry pro-choice activists wearing pink shirts flooded the Senate chamber after the vote, waving signs and chanting.
Anne Skinner, president of Planned Parenthood Votes Rhode Island, blasted Mr. Archambault’s alternative legislation, saying it “demonstrates a clear mistrust of women.”
“Rhode Islanders do not want to wait any longer for their rights to be protected. The Senate can do the right thing. The time is now,” said the Rhode Island Reproductive Rights Coalition in a statement on UpriseRI.
Meanwhile, the five lead sponsors urged the Senate to bring the measure to the floor for a vote before the state legislature adjourns in late June.
“In the face of ever-increasing threats at the national level to women’s access to critical reproductive services, we urge the Senate Judiciary Committee to reconsider and bring the bill to the Senate floor for a vote of passage this year,” said their statement on WPRI12.
Another Democrat who voted against the bill, state Sen. Frank Lombardi, said the bill “goes beyond the codification of Roe v. Wade,” while Democratic state Sen. Lou Raptakis said, “I don’t know why there is such a rush,” given that nothing has happened to restrict Roe.
Supporters argued that the bill was needed to protect abortion rights in the face of a potential threat to Roe from the Supreme Court, which now has a 5-4 conservative majority.
New York passed a “codify Roe” bill in January, while the Vermont legislature sent a no-limits measure to the governor last week.
Not all Democratic state legislators are on board. The New Mexico Senate sunk a “codify Roe” measure in March when eight Democrats broke ranks to defeat the measure.