Rhode Island lawmakers push to affirm abortion rights

 PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP/ WPRI) — More than 30 Rhode Island state legislators have signed onto a bill to affirm a woman’s right to have an abortion.

State Rep. Edith Ajello and Sen. Gayle Goldin, both Providence Democrats, announced the legislation at a State House rally Wednesday.

Similar bills were proposed in previous years but never went to a vote.

Ajello said there’s momentum this year with new pro-choice Democrats in the state House of Representatives and amid fears about Republican President Donald Trump, who is anti-abortion.

“Rhode Island does not have a law in the books that makes abortion legal. We need to put into law a protection for our rights in case something happens to Roe v. Wade,” argued Craig O’Connor, the director of public policy and government relations at Planned Parenthood.

Grace Engelman, a Brown University student, was also in attendance at the rally.

“I’m a young person who’s never lived in a country where abortion was illegal,” she said. “And so I think it makes a lot of sense to try to protect the right to abortion as much as possible in Rhode Island by passing this reproductive health care bill.”

The Rhode Island Catholic Conference disagrees with that stance. In a statement, the group called the proposed legislation “a direct attack upon defenseless and innocent human life.”

Planned Parenthood officials argue it is a larger, universal issue that deserves attention.

According to O’Connor, “people think of this as a women’s issue or sort of marginalize it in some way. This is a human rights issue that affect all of us. All of our families, our entire community.”

House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello said he would not comment on the legislation until it has gone through the committee process. He and Rhode Island’s other Democratic legislative leaders were endorsed by the state’s top anti-abortion group last year.