President Donald Trump’s decision to nominate Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy dramatically increases the likelihood that the Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade establishing a woman’s right to choose will be either overturned or severely curtailed.
Kennedy consistently supported upholding Roe, a position that Kavanaugh– or if he is not confirmed, the next Trump appointee— is almost certain not to hold. This will create a 5 to 4 majority of justices who are at a minimum highly skeptical of the constitutionality of the protections contained in the landmark 1973 decision.
As a result, it is imperative that the General Assembly move expeditiously to pass the Reproductive Health Choice Act when the new session begins in January. This legislation would ensure that a woman’s reproductive rights are safeguarded by codifying the protections contained in the Roe v. Wade decision into state law.
This critical piece of legislation, sponsored by Senator Gayle Goldin (D-3), has been introduced in 2017, and 2018, but so far has failed to receive a floor vote. But we no longer have the luxury of time. The Rhode Island General Assembly needs to adopt this legislation or women’s reproductive choice and privacy will be left to chance.
This needs to be a priority. Let’s send a message that if reproductive choice is eroded at the federal level, it will be protected by states like Rhode Island. President Trump may be president, but we have the power to stand up to him. Let’s do so by passing the Reproductive Health Care Act, safeguarding reproductive rights for all of our state’s women.
Stephen Archambault is a senator from District 22 representing Smithfield, North Providence, and Johnston.