New York Democrats kicked off 2019 by passing the most radical abortion bill in U.S. history, which erased the state's limitation on abortion of 24 weeks, allowing abortion up until birth to protect the mother's health, including mental health, and entirely removed abortion from the penal code. Other blue states are now following suit with their own aggresively "pro-choice" bills, citing the chance of the repeal of Roe v. Wade as the impetus.
On Wednesday, Rhode Island joined New York as another blue state that allows abortion up until birth if deemed "necessary for the health or life of the mother," The Associated Press reports.
"The new law says the state will not restrict the right to an abortion prior to fetal viability or afterward if an abortion is necessary for the health or life of the mother," AP reports. "It repeals older state abortion laws deemed unconstitutional by the courts. The bill was approved Wednesday in the Senate 21 to 17 after two hours of debate, then in the House 45 to 29 after a half hour debate."
"Fundamentally this bill is about health care," Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo said Wednesday when she signed the abortion bill into law. "It's about protecting and providing access to health care for all the women of Rhode Island."
Despite the significant impact of the bill's legalization of abortion until birth if the "health" of the mother is deemed at risk, Rhode Island Democrats have played down the law, insisting it simply "preserves the status quo" by "codifying Roe v. Wade."
"It’s a difficult issue and there are good and principled people on both sides of the issue," said Raimondo, the Providence Journal reports. "But in light of all the uncertainty in Washington, and frankly, around the country in many other states, there is great deal of anxiety that ... a woman’s right to access reproductive health care is in danger. ... The bill I am about to sign codifies Roe v. Wade. It preserves the status quo ... that has existed in this state for [close to] 50 years."
Democratic Sen. Erin Lynch Prata stressed that the bill is intended to "protect" the citizens of the state and echoed the governor's talking point on Roe v. Wade. "This bill is this chamber and this legislature performing our responsibility to the citizens of the state of Rhode Island. It is our responsibility to protect our citizens. We are not putting our citizens in the hands of a changing Supreme Court," said Lynch, in comments reported by AP.
Democrat Bridget Valverde defended the stripping away of protections for unborn children by stressing that birth can be a "traumatic experience" in addition to one of "beauty." In the end, she maintained, abortion is really just about "health care" and being able to make choices about one's own health.
Not all Democrats were on board with the abortion bill, however, including Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Crowley, Harold Metts, Frank Lombardo and Dominick Ruggerio, President of the Senate. Lombardo pleaded with his fellow Democrats to vote against the bill because "we are all children of God and I tell you, we will all be accountable to God for the position of influence that he has given to all of us," the Providence Journal notes.
Republicans, meanwhile, attempted to amend the bill multiple times, but Democrats blocked their proposals, including a provision that triggered the bill only if Roe v. Wade is actually repealed and one requiring the administering of anesthesia to unborn children before ending their lives.