Rhode Island Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo has signed a bill codifying abortion protections, joining other Democratic-controlled states looking to safeguard the procedure as conservative states push ahead on abortion restrictions.
The bill “codifies what has been the status quo under Roe v. Wade for nearly five decades,” Raimondo said in a statement after signing the bill on Wednesday, referencing the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide in 1973. “It protects a woman’s access to reproductive health care here in Rhode Island at a time when that access is under threat at the federal level and in states across our country.”
Rhode Island’s bill, the Reproductive Privacy Act, bans the state from restricting “an individual person from preventing, commencing, continuing, or terminating that individual’s pregnancy prior to fetal viability” or after fetal viability “to preserve the health or life” of the woman.
The bill’s approval comes as other Democratic governors have signed legislation prioritizing abortion protections in response to a slew of Republican state legislatures advancing bills restricting abortion access in an effort to force a potential legal challenge to Roe.
The Reproductive Privacy Act bars state restrictions on contraceptives and protects medical professionals from felony assault charges for providing abortions. It also repeals measures requiring providers to notify the husbands of married women seeking abortions before conducting the procedure and banning so-called partial birth abortions.
Amanda Skinner, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Votes! Rhode Island, lauded the bill’s signing as a victory.
“The essential protections instilled by the RPA will ensure all Rhode Islanders – and especially people of color, people with low incomes, members of the LBGTQ+ community, and anyone who struggles with barriers to health care – can access the reproductive health care services they need,” she said in a statement. “Abortion is health care, reproductive care is health care, and health care is a human right.”
The bill’s opponents promised to continue fighting abortion protections.
Providence Bishop Thomas Tobin called the bill’s passage “profoundly disappointing, a very dark day in the history of our state” in a tweet Thursday, but urged supporters not to “be discouraged by this very temporary set-back.”
The Rhode Island Right to Life Committee wrote in a Facebook post later Thursday that the group would likely retract some endorsements given to state lawmakers.
“Some well-deserved endorsement retractions will soon be coming, obviously, followed by a longer explanation of the treacheries and failures that led to yesterday’s loss … failures by unscrupulous and smarmy politicians, failures by dishonest media outlets, and failures in our own pro-life movement and churches … all as a prelude to preparing to win back some seats and turn things around in 2020,” the post said.
The bill moved through both chambers in about two hours Wednesday evening, despite opposition from some in the Democratic leadership.
The measure passed the Senate in a 21-17 vote with Rhode Island Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey and Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin voting against the measure. It then moved to the House, where it passed 45-29 despite Democratic House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello’s vote against the measure.
CNN’s Anna Laffrey contributed to this report.