12 current, former local Dem lawmakers criticize party on abortion in national open letter

Politics - Government

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A dozen current and former state lawmakers from Southeastern New England signed onto a high-profile open letter to national Democratic Party leaders Sunday that criticizes the party’s positions on abortion.

The letter, which ran as a full-page advertisement in Sunday’s edition of The New York Times, was originally sent to the Democratic National Committee’s platform committee on Aug. 14. The newspaper ad was paid for by the group Democrats for Life of America, and the first signatory listed is Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards.

“Fundamentally, we believe that every single state and county in this country deserves Democratic governance,” the letter says. “We should not cede large swathes of the United States to the Republican Party. In the U.S., pro-life Democrats have been a critical part of the coalition to expand voting rights, improve health care, and pass criminal justice reform. These accomplishments would not have been possible if the Democratic Party had in place a litmus test on abortion.”

The current Rhode Island state lawmakers listed as signatories on the letter are Rep. Deb Fellela, D-Johnston; Rep. Camille Vella-Wilkinson, D-Warwick; Rep. Bob Phillips, D-Woonsocket; Rep. Ray Hull, D-Providence; Sen. Frank Lombardo, D-Johnston; Sen. Lou Raptakis, D-Coventry; and Rep. Greg Costantino, D-Lincoln.

Also listed is Sen. Betty Crowley, D-Central Falls, who was defeated in last week’s primary by Jonathan Acosta. Two former Rhode Island state lawmakers are listed, as well: former Rep. David Coughlin, D-Pawtucket, and former Rep. William McKenna, D-Cranston. (Coughlin is inaccurately listed as a sitting lawmaker; he declined to run in 2018, facing a primary challenge from Karen Alzate, who now holds his old seat. He briefly considered running as an independent this year.)

Notably, while most of Rhode Island’s top Democratic General Assembly leaders identify as pro-life, none of them are listed as signatories. Rhode Island Right to Life has historically had strong support at the State House, but last year suffered a major defeat when lawmakers enacted the Reproductive Privacy Act, codifying abortion rights in state law.

One local lawmaker from Massachusetts also signed onto the letter: Rep. Alan Silvia, D-Fall River. Democratic leaders on Beacon Hill are facing increasing pressure from party activists to enact a bill expanding abortion rights called the ROE Act — introduced by House Speaker Pro Tempore Pat Haddad, D-Somerset — in the wake of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) is WPRI 12’s politics and business editor and a Target 12 investigative reporter. He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook

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