Senate Judiciary set to vote again on abortion rights

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — One month after a key Senate committee voted down an abortion-rights bill, the panel is set to vote on a new one on Tuesday.

The Senate Judiciary Committee posted the Reproductive Privacy Act online for a vote on Tuesday, and a spokesperson said an amended version would be posted by Monday night.

The identical Reproductive Health Care Act (RHCA) was rejected by the committee in a 5-4 vote in May, sparking outrage from abortion-rights activists and relief for pro-lifers who want to restrict abortion, not pass laws affirming it.

After rejecting the RHCA in May, the panel decided to hold the Reproductive Privacy Act, which already cleared the House, for further study so that it could be revised and voted on again.

It’s unclear what changes will be made to the bill before the vote. The swing vote, state Sen. Steven Archambault, said he was “committed to supporting a woman’s right to choose,” but voted against the bill because he thought it was too broad.

The legislation, as written, would allow abortion up to fetal viability, with exceptions for the life and health of the mother. The bill is being considered amid concerns that the U.S. Supreme Court could overturn or alter the landmark Roe v. Wade decision and other abortion decisions like Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

Multiple other states including Alabama and Missouri have recently gone the opposite route, passing legislation that sharply restricts or bans abortions.

Toni Van Pelt, president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), joined protesters on Wednesday at the State House who urged the Senate to “let it out,” referring to the abortion legislation. Pro-life activists have been a constant presence in the rotunda in recent months, as well.

Democratic Senate President Dominick Ruggerio has said he will vote against the bill if it makes it to the floor, but said he would not stand in the way of the bill and even encouraged leadership to find a compromise.

If a revised version of the Reproductive Privacy Act clears the Senate, it will have to go back to the House to vote on the revisions. The General Assembly session is expected to wrap up this month.

Steph Machado (smachado@wpri.com) covers Providence, politics and more for WPRI 12. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook

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