Rhode Island senators consider bill to protect abortion

May 13, 2019

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A key Senate committee in Rhode Island plans to vote Tuesday on legislation to preserve federal abortion protections in state law.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to consider both the Senate and House versions of the bill. Until this vote was scheduled, it was unclear if the legislation had stalled.

Lawmakers in the Rhode Island House approved the legislation in March to codify the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision establishing a nationwide right to abortion.

The legislation would pass to the full Senate for consideration if the committee approves.

Democratic Senate President Dominick Ruggerio is anti-abortion. While he plans to vote no if it reaches the Senate floor, Ruggerio said it’s important the committee call a vote, out of respect for everyone who has dedicated so much time to the issue. Ruggerio said he was determined not to impose his personal views on the members of the committee.

Democratic House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, who is also anti-abortion, voted no in March.

The nine-member committee appears divided between four supporters of the proposal and four opponents, with Democratic state Sen. Stephen Archambault, of Smithfield, as the potential swing vote.

Amendments to the bill have been discussed, but the Senate sponsor, Democrat Gayle Goldin, has said she won’t support anything that weakens the bill.

Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo supports codifying Roe v. Wade.

The number of abortions in Rhode Island has been steadily decreasing over the past decade. There were 2,000 abortions in the state in 2017, according to health department data.