A bill to preserve federal abortion protections in state law failed to advance past a key Senate committee Tuesday in Rhode Island.
The members of the Senate Judiciary Committee defeated the Senate version of the bill 5-4 Tuesday. The committee voted to hold the House version of the bill for further study and could act on it in the future.
Senators who voted no said they fear it goes beyond a strict codification of Roe v. Wade and it’s not urgent to pass the bill now. Democratic Sen. Leonidas Raptakis, of Coventry, said that if Roe v. Wade is challenged at the U.S. Supreme Court, Rhode Island would have ample time to act.
“I don’t want to cross the red line of neutrality and I want to see the status quo continue,” he said.
Republican Sen. Jessica de la Cruz, of Burrillville, said she was voting against it on behalf of the many constituents she heard from that oppose the bill. Democratic Sen. Stephen Archambault, of Smithfield, said he’s not comfortable with some of the language in the bill, particularly about late-term abortions. He said he supports abortion rights and wants to amend the proposal.
Senators who supported it said the national trend is to restrict abortion and Rhode Island shouldn’t wait to codify Roe v. Wade.
“We have been discussing and debating this bill for years and very intensely for the last three years,” said Committee Chairwoman Sen. Erin Lynch Prata, a Warwick Democrat. “It’s clear to me that the national landscape has changed and is changing.”
Lynch Prata said the bill preserves a woman’s right to safe and legal abortion. Loud chants from people on both sides of the issue could be heard as the senators shared their views.
Democratic Sen. Gayle Goldin, of Providence, sponsored the bill. She said after the vote that she’ll continue to “entertain any avenue to pursue protection for the women of our state.”
“Make no mistake, this is a movement, and it is a growing one,” she said in a statement. “I feel the anger and fear of thousands of women because of tonight’s vote.”
By holding the House version of the bill, there’s opportunity for further action, said Democratic Senate President Dominick Ruggerio.
Although Ruggerio is anti-abortion, he still asked all parties to continue working together to see if amended language can be developed that will pass committee and be brought to the floor.
The House passed its version of the bill in March.