PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Hundreds of Rhode Islanders gathered outside the State House Friday night to condemn the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which has guaranteed women the constitutional right to an abortion since 1973.
For a number of Rhode Islanders, the gathering feels like déjà vu. The State House was just as crowded Friday night as it was last month, when reproductive rights advocates decried the Supreme Court’s draft opinion of the ruling.
Women can still legally get an abortion in Rhode Island thanks to the Reproductive Privacy Act, which was signed in 2019 by then-Gov. Gina Raimondo. The act codifies Roe v. Wade into state law and was crafted in anticipation of such a ruling from the Supreme Court.
The Rhode Island Supreme Court also upheld the law when it rejected a challenge from pro-life organizations two days after the draft opinion was leaked.
But advocates are urging state lawmakers to reconvene and pass the Equality in Abortion Coverage Act, which would ensure that abortion procedures are covered for all Rhode Island women.
The act, sponsored by Sen. Bridget Valverde and Rep. Liana Cassar, would repeal the ban on abortion coverage for both state employees and Medicaid recipients.
Their proposal was front and center at Friday’s rally, which was organized by The Womxn Project.
One by one, reproductive rights advocates addressed the crowd.
“I wish I could say ‘I wish I wasn’t seeing you right now,'” Executive Director of The Womxn Project Jocelyn Foye told the crowd. “But we’re here and now it’s time to move.”
“We need to speak up loudly and defiantly and make it clear that abortion is a right for all and it should be accessible for everyone everywhere,” she continued.
The crowd erupted in applause after each person spoke. Dozens of attendees held signs that read “keep abortion safe and legal” and “abortion is health care.”
House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio said in a statement that the legislation would be considered again in 2023.
Near the end of the rally, a fight broke out between attendees and counter protesters. 12 News has reached out to the Rhode Island State Police for more details but has not yet heard back.