Following the Tuesday defeat of a bill meant to ensure abortion rights, conversations and meetings aimed at moving the legislation forward are continuing, according to a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Sen. Dawn Euer (D-Newport) said supporters are pursuing “the goal of protecting women in light of the national picture.” She said Alabama’s enactment of a controversial abortion law earlier this week “was jarring.”
Senate Judiciary Chairwoman Erin Lynch Prata (D-Warwick) is taking the lead on the issue, Euer said.
In a statement, Lynch Prata and Sen. Josh Miller, chair of the Senate's Health and Human Services Committee, said efforts to pass the bill will remain in the Judiciary Committee.
"At this week’s hearing on the reproductive rights legislation, the majority of Judiciary Committee members expressed support for the concept of codification to protect reproductive health care in Rhode Island," the two senators said.
"We believe that members of the Judiciary Committee have given the issue full attention, and we have no intention of transferring the Reproductive Privacy Act from the Judiciary Committee to the Health & Human Services Committee," said Lynch Prata and Miller. "Judiciary Committee members heard from all sides of the public during a lengthy hearing that stretched until 6 a.m., and have spent countless hours behind the scenes researching, working with legal staff, and reading correspondence from everyday Rhode Islanders."
They added: "The appropriate path forward is for all parties who support protecting reproductive health care to continue working together to develop revised language that fully codifies the status quo and can win the support of the Judiciary Committee. As co-sponsors of the bill, we will continue to work tirelessly toward that goal."
On Tuesday, the Judiciary Committee voted, 5-4, to reject the Senate version of a bill meant to preserve abortion rights in Rhode Island. With eight Democrats on the nine-member committee, four Democrats voted against the legislation, and four voted for it.
Opponents and supporters have lobbied energetically on both sides of the issue.
On Tuesday, a House version of the bill was held for further study, meaning it could be resurrected and sent to the full Senate.
At the time, it was highly uncertain if there was a path forward, particularly considering how abortion is a highly polarizing issue.
Yet Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, who has made a point of publicly avoiding taking sides on the debate, signaled Tuesday that the abortion bill could resurface.
“[B]y holding the House version of the bill for further study today, there is opportunity for further action,” Ruggerio said. “I ask all parties to continue working together to see if amended language can be developed that will pass committee and be brought to the floor.”
Ruggerio’s stance appeared to reflect a recognition that enraged pro-choice activists could become a political problem for the Senate in legislative elections next year. On Tuesday, the activists chanted, “Vote Them Out!” and occupied the Senate chamber after the Judiciary Committee vote.
Opponents contend the bill is more than a strict codification of Roe vs. Wade and would expand the possibility for late-term abortions. Supporters say the measure is necessary due to the rightward move of the U.S. Supreme Court under President Trump.
This story has been updated.