Is the just-signed Rhode Island “Equality in Abortion Coverage Act” unconstitutional?
Republicans and some dissenting Democrats think yes.
First, some history.
Following the 1974 U.S. Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, the state General Assembly made an apparent socially conservative and Catholic-friendly decision to prevent taxpayer health insurance coverage for the procedure. While any woman could legally obtain an abortion, those who were on Medicaid or who worked for the state could not use health benefits to cover and pay for it.
The provision has remained, straight up through and continuing even with the renewed codification of abortion legality passed a few years ago, called the Rhode Island Reproductive Rights Act.
But last year, when the new Trump-flavored SCOTUS reversed Roe v. Wade and returned the authority on the matter to individual states, pro-choice activists here went to work to clean up any trace of anti-abortion sentiment in state law.
Failing in the past to end this unusual health insurance carve out, but buoyed by the lightning rod high court decision, they moved on it with the EACA, which ends this health insurance exemption for the state employees and Medicaid participants.
Passing comfortably in the House of Representatives, it barely squeaked by the Senate Judiciary Committee by a 7-6 vote before clearing more easily on its full floor.
A hot campaign issue in the Democratic primary, Gov. Dan McKee had promised his signature and made good last week when the bill was ceremoniously delivered to his desk.
But a buzz still exists among opponents, who are now hanging their hopes on long-time state constitutional language.
Section One, Article 2 reads, in part, “All free governments are instituted for the protection, safety, and happiness of the people. All laws, therefore, should be made for the good of the whole; and the burdens of the state ought to be fairly distributed among its citizens. No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied equal protection of the laws. No otherwise qualified person shall, solely by reason of race, gender, or handicap, be subject to discrimination by the state, its agents or any person or entity doing business with the state. Nothing in this section shall be construed to grant or secure any right relating to abortion or the funding thereof.”
There’s a better-late-than-never play being led by Cranston Democrat Charlene Lima to test the new law against the old constitutional language.
Last week, she called on the state attorney general to engage the legal question. So far, no response there. Now, this week, she sent a written request to the House Speaker Joe Shekarchi asking him to seek an advisory opinion from the R.I. Supreme Court. Since the bill has already been signed into law, likely crickets there too.
Chronology of events aside, there is an interesting argument as to what the constitutional language means when applied here.
Is it an instruction to deny abortion rights, or does it mean all the stated overarching concepts have nothing to do with abortion, and should you want to address that specific matter, simply write a corresponding law?
While the ship has seemingly sailed in the legislature, keep your eye on the courts, the place where this could still possibly be litigated all over again by a party with “standing” and potentially force a constitutional convention to clean up the confusion.
Dan Yorke is the PM Drive Host on 99.7/AM 630 WPRO, Dan Yorke State of Mind weekends on Fox Providence/WPRI 12 and owns communications/crisis consulting firm DYCOMM LLC.
Mr. York, please define "woman"?
See, Lewis, what you don't seem to understand is that to normal people, who don't spend every waking moment immersed in the Fox/Newsmax/OAN bubble, comments like this make you sound like a lunatic. You guys speak in some weird code, promulgate bizarre conspiracy theories, and follow like sheep the voices on your TV that tell you whom to hate this year. What a sad life.
Maybe you guys should just not involve yourselves in medical decisions made by people you're not related to?
Good advice, same principle should apply to vaccinations.
It's probably futile to explain the concept of "public health" to you. But there is a difference between private medical decisions that don't affect anyone other than the patient, and inoculations against a highly communicable and potentially deadly disease that could affect many people (as. for instance, me, who is immunocompromised as a result of cancer treatment.) There is a long and rich history of robust public health measures in the US, dating back at least to George Washington, who required his soldiers to be vaccinated against smallpox.
@Some Guy - Their weird code you mention is called Deflection.
@Lewis. - If an infectious disease doctor advises a public health agency on matters pertaining to infectious disease based on scientific research...who then advises public officials....who then advise the public and so on...Yes one should listen and gather information. Then, after doing one's own research on the matter, make an informed decision what to do personally. It's really, quite simple common sense.
However, the majority of MAGA's and anti-vaxxers choose to take medical-related advice from anyone and everyone NOT trained in public health OR diseases simply so they can do what they want, just like terrible people who don't care about anyone but themselves.
That being said. Even though I am still baffled as to why, I support you and anyone's choice not to be vaxxed. Though my reasoning is admittedly darker than personal freedom.
I think our biggest difference is you trust the govt and I do not. Btw, I'm pro-choice.
Get ready for the outrage of pontificating religious zealots and MAGA cult members [beam]
Better to Remain Silent and Be Thought a Fool than to Speak and Remove All Doubt
I am an Independent Firebrand!!
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