by Steven Brown, Executive Director
Unfortunately, it was not just empty campaign rhetoric. As President-elect, Donald Trump has reiterated his support for overturning Roe v. Wade in order to let each state decide whether, and under what circumstances, a woman could obtain an abortion. It is worth contemplating exactly what that would mean for women in Rhode Island.
Thanks to Roe v. Wade, the ACLU of Rhode Island has successfully challenged in the courts more than half a dozen repressive statutes enacted by the General Assembly that were designed to undermine a woman’s right to an abortion. If President-elect Trump’s vision had been in effect, however, the statutes that the courts have declared unconstitutional would still be the law of the land in Rhode Island.
What would a woman’s right to reproductive choice in Rhode Island look like in that scenario? Though not quite The Handmaid’s Tale, it still is a rather disquieting vision of women losing control over their bodies and, to some extent, their destinies. Listed below are just some of the restrictions that women seeking abortions would face in Rhode Island today if those unconstitutional laws had been allowed to stand:
* If you were a married woman seeking an abortion, the physician would generally be required, upon threat of loss of license, to first notify your husband about it – even if you feared domestic violence because of the disclosure.
* Do those prescription drug ads on TV with their lengthy rundown of possible side effects drive you mad? That’s nothing. If you were seeking an abortion, you would first need to be advised by your physician of all the medical risks associated with the procedure, including the “psychological risk to the fetus.” Physicians failing to fully comply with this requirement could face criminal prosecution.
* Even upon accepting all those “risks,” you would still have to wait at least 24 hours before being able to get the abortion. If you couldn’t reschedule the appointment within seven days, you would have to start the “informed consent” process all over again, even as the delay added potential medical risks. To increase the obstacles, the required advance explanation of all the risks would need to be given to you by the physician performing the procedure, and no other medical professional.
* A common abortion procedure known as D & E would be outlawed, even if using the procedure was necessary to preserve your health or, in some instances, your life.
* Notwithstanding your consent, the purported “father . . . and maternal grandparents of the fetus” would be allowed to sue your physician for damages for performing an abortion using that procedure.
* Are you an emancipated minor who needs an abortion? Well, you’re not as emancipated as you think; your physician would generally need to make an effort to contact your parents about your plans.
* If you were a city or town employee, state law would bar your health insurance plan from including abortion coverage.
Thanks to ACLU of Rhode Island litigation – and Roe v. Wade – none of these laws took effect. But nothing would prevent their re-enactment if President-elect Trump has his way.
Because the ability to exercise such a fundamental right should not be determined by the state in which you live, we will continue to vigorously fight any efforts to undermine a woman’s right to choose in Rhode Island.
To help us prevent this nightmare scenario, we ask you to join with us and Planned Parenthood and others in resisting any attempts to roll back a woman’s right to reproductive freedom. As obvious as it should be, the President-elect and other politicians need to be reminded that a woman’s body belongs to her, not the state.