Delivery of Care

Nevertheless, we persisted

The passage the Reproductive Privacy Act by the R.I. House by a vote of 44-30 marks a sea change in the Rhode Island political culture

Photo by Rep. Rebecca Kislak, courtesy of her Twitter account

Final tally of the vote in the R.I. House to pass the Reproductive Privacy Act on March 7, by a 44-30 margin.

By Toby Simon
Posted 3/11/19
A grandmother of three girls shares her perspective on the efforts to codify Roe v. Wade in Rhode Island law, which passed the R.I. House by a vote of 40-33 on Thursday, March 7.
What changed the political calculus at the State House, where despite all the shrill rhetorical tactics by the usual suspects in opposition, the reform caucus and The Womxn Project prevailed? Will the pending codification of Roe v. Wade into Rhode Island require political reporters in the state to change the way that they report on the issue, changing the language they use in stories, and examine the dwindling influence of the church? Is it, as Taino Palermo tweeted in response to Ted Nesi: “Party doesn’t matter, generation does. Another case of outdated and irrelevant in thought process?”
Providence City Council member Nirva LaFortune introduced a resolution on Thursday, March 7, that was endorsed the City Council, in support of RI H5609, which provides medical assistance coverage and reimbursement rates for perinatal doula services, saying in a tweet: “All expectant moms should be able to have access to a perinatal doula and doulas should receive fair compensation.” When the mortality rate for women in the U.S. is skyrocketing, particularly for women of color, such common sense solutions to preventive health care, deserve more attention.
In a statement released after the vote in the R.I. House, Jocelyn Foye, co-director of The Womxn Project, said: “For us, this is not about politics: it’s about our health and our ability to control our own futures.”
As the group described its own origin, “The Womxn Project started just two years ago around a kitchen table when a group of artists and activists came together to talk about building a strong statewide movement for change.”
For all the talk on talk radio, for all the gab on political talk shows such as “A Lively Experiment,” such voices rarely are given an opportunity to be heard. [Kudos to Ian Donnis for inviting LaFortune to make her “first” appearance on the Political Roundtable.]
Perhaps one of the next projects that The Womxn Project might consider is to create a regular podcast to offer an alternative voice to the often constipated traditional Rhode Island media outlets.

PROVIDENCE – When Roe v. Wade was affirmed by the Supreme Court on Jan. 22, 1973, I was 25 and very happily pregnant with my first child.

In fact, I had brought my first morning urine [that is what you did in the Dark Ages] to a Planned Parenthood clinic to find out if I was pregnant. I was instructed to return at the end of the day for the results of the pregnancy test. I was ushered in to a room where the practitioner looked at me with a very serious look on her face and said: “Well, I have the results of your pregnancy test and it is positive. Is this good or bad news for you?”

At the time I was a high school French teacher in an urban school in Syracuse, New York, and Roe v. Wade was not the law of the land. [See link below to ConvergenceRI story, “A teaching moment: when myth, reality collided, and courage prevailed.”]

During my time at Central High School, girls often dropped out of high school due to pregnancy and, as many studies have shown, never returned to finish high school. The data was clear in the 1970s that completion of high school without becoming a mother was a strong indicator for academic success.

Many of the girls in this high school confided in me that they were sexually active but when I inquired which method of birth control they were using, they cited many of the “methods” that could easily result in pregnancy. Pulling out before the guy ejaculated and peeing after intercourse were the birth control “methods” most commonly used by theses teens. And since legal abortion was not an option, if these girls became pregnant they became mothers. Ready or not.

At about that same time the Planned Parenthood in Syracuse opened one of the first teen clinics to provide birth control counseling, education and methods to sexually active teens in order to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies.

I was part of the #Resisitance in the early 1970s and worked with our local and national organizations to see Roe become reality. We marched, we rallied, we protested, we provided testimony on the local and national level. That its existence has been seriously threatened over the years was not something we envisioned. Nevertheless, we persisted.

Protecting the right of women to choose
The Womxn Project was founded two years ago by a group of artists and activists who wanted to build a strong movement for change in Rhode Island. Specifically they have been working tirelessly to protect the right to abortion.

The Rhode Island Coalition for Reproductive Freedom and The Womxn Project teamed up to support the codification of Roe v. Wade for all Rhode Islanders. They showed up in force, along with hundreds of other Rhode Islanders on Tuesday March 5, to speak in support of Sub-A House Bill 5125, The Reproductive Privacy Act [RPA]. This bill protects access to safe, legal abortion in Rhode Island no matter what happens at the federal level to Roe v. Wade.

On late Tuesday night in to Wednesday morning the House Judiciary Committee heard testimonies from many Rhode Islanders and ultimately passed the amended RPA onto the floor. [After more than four hours of debate on Thursday, March 7, the legislation passed the House by a vote of 44-30.] Hopefully, it will move through the Senate and be signed into law by Gov. Gina Raimondo.

Under attack
Make no mistake about the current attack on reproductive freedom here in Rhode Island and in every state of the Union. It’s of little concern to President Trump and his minions that when abortion care is not legal, it forces many women in to harmful and desperate situations.

The right to this medical procedure is under attack by the Trump administration and they will stop at nothing to undermine our right to choose. This includes promoting the most offensive lie that Democrats are in favor of “infanticide.” Hours after the U.S. House Judiciary Committee requested documents from 81 people and entities associated with President Trump, the White House responded with a statement that ignored the request for documents and instead, issued an attack on abortion that was full of lies.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders dismissed the document request, saying it was intended: “To distract from [Democrats] radical agenda of … killing babies after they’re born.” President Trump has also said in many of his campaign rallies that “doctors are just ripping babies from mothers’ wombs and killing them.”

The Trump Administration is intentionally lying about late-term abortions. The Centers for Disease Control reports that 1.3 percent of abortions were performed at or greater than 21 weeks gestation and under dire circumstances. Referring to this procedure as “killing a baby” or infanticide is a grotesque and cruel lie.

More than 91 percent of abortions are performed before 13 weeks. To be clear, there is nothing in current law, or in any law being proposed by the Democrats or anyone else that permits “killing babies” after they are born. This lie has motivated violence, including mass murder, against abortion providers.

The latest round of attacks in many states against Roe v. Wade will most likely end up back in the Supreme Court, a terrifying thought given who now sits on the Court. That’s why so many states are attempting to codify Roe in their states so a woman’s right to abortion will not be affected by any changes by a potential Supreme Court decision in the future.

As an older woman and grandmother of three girls, I’m enormously grateful to The Womxn Project and The Coalition to Protect Reproductive Freedom. I love your energy, drive, commitment and passion. The RI Senate Judiciary committee heard testimony on the companion Reproductive Privacy Act legislation until 6:05 a.m. Wednesday morning.

Let’s hope history is on our side.

Toby Simon is a frequent contributor to ConvergenceRI.


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