The Abortion bill and hope in Rhode Island

Posted 3/26/19

To the Editor:As a legislator, I have made a commitment to represent the citizens in my district – all of them. We face controversial and difficult decisions, which require discernment, …

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The Abortion bill and hope in Rhode Island


To the Editor:
As a legislator, I have made a commitment to represent the citizens in my district – all of them. We face controversial and difficult decisions, which require discernment, deliberation, and discussion. The most important element in this process is listening. On the issue of abortion, I have listened and continue to listen, intently, to the multitude of views on this subject. While the issue is challenging, the process has given me a perspective I would like to share.
I want to see abortions reduced. They are not going to end. No bill being considered now in Rhode Island would accomplish that. Even if a law passed tomorrow, outlawing abortions, they would not stop…they would just become more dangerous. Over many years, it’s been established that, legal or not, abortions will take place.
So…how do we reduce them? In my view, the best way is to avoid and prevent unwanted pregnancies. We should provide better education and better access to birth control. And persuade people not to have abortions. In recent years, for various reasons, abortion rates have been greatly reduced. As a pragmatist, I see that as a positive.
When I ran for office, I stated that I am not personally in favor of abortion, but in serving in the civil arena, as a state Senator, I would support the protection of safe and legal abortion first established in Roe v. Wade. It’s been almost 50 years, and no consensus has formed around any alternative. So, essentially, that means upholding the status quo, in the face of a potentially contrary U.S. Supreme Court decision. I do not favor going beyond the status quo.
People do feel strongly that abortions should be regulated, though, and that’s what government does. Roe and other cases come into play in that process. Although the term codify is used, we can’t really “codify” Roe or the status quo very easily. Hence, much of the present debate. Essentially, codifying means upholding the core principles derived from Roe and the subsequent cases and statutory provisions (Doe v. Bolton, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Gonzalez, Danforth, Ashcroft, the Partial Birth Abortion Ban, and even the Hyde Amendment) that have shaped the status quo.
I would not have voted for the original bill - S152. It went too far. For instance, it repealed the state’s partial birth abortion ban. While our statute had been ruled unconstitutional (a federal ban remains in effect), Rhode Island’s ban could have been easily fixed. Repealing it would not have maintained the status quo.
This re-worked bill, though - S152 Sub A - is in line with the essential Roe principles. The arguments I’ve heard most, to the contrary, include the following:

1. It expands abortion rights in Rhode Island.
No, it doesn’t. In the critical aspects, it tracks the Roe language (as modified by Casey) almost verbatim: prohibiting post-viability abortions except to preserve the “life or health” of the woman.

2. It eliminates restrictions on methods of abortion…pointing to partial birth abortions, in particular.
No, it doesn’t. Rhode Island’s present law on partial birth abortion was ruled unconstitutional long ago; this bill actually creates a specific state ban, referencing the federal ban upheld in Gonzalez.

3. It precludes the state from prosecuting a criminal for an assault that harms a fetus.
No, it doesn’t. Attorney General Neronha has confirmed that he has the tools needed to prosecute such cases.

4. It removes restrictions on public funding of abortions in RI.
No, it doesn’t. It does not change RI law as it applies to Medicaid & state employee’s health coverage. For municipal-funded plans, it’s in line with case law. The status quo for Rite Care remains - abortion is not a covered benefit. This bill only brings it in line with the federal Hyde Amendment that precludes funding for abortion except in cases of rape, incest or where the life of the pregnant individual is threatened.

5. It undermines RI’s ability to regulate abortion facilities.
No, it doesn’t. Section 23-4.13-2(c)(3), set forth in the bill, provides for regulation of those facilities.

6. It waters down parental consent laws.
No, it doesn’t. It does give more options - but parental consent isn’t required, now. With judicial bypass, minors currently can obtain abortions without parental consent. And, let’s recognize - some parents are hardly able to give good advice … often, a trusted grandparent or older sibling is wiser.

I don’t know if Roe will be overturned. But many of my constituents are concerned about the uncertainty and the possibility of that occurring.
Clearly, abortion is a difficult issue, especially for one who makes an effort to comply with his faith, be compassionate, and advocate for social justice. As an elected legislator, though, I am in a secular office. I work for a diverse population of women and men who have genuine, carefully considered, and differing views. I seek to represent all my constituents, as best I can.
I support best efforts to reduce unwanted pregnancies and abortions. My view is that there are more ways to accomplish that than just getting the government to ban abortions.
It is my hope that when any woman becomes pregnant that we, as a community and a society, will help her and her child to survive and thrive. Personally, if a friend or family member sought my counsel, I would seek to persuade her to have the child. But I would not dictate to her, and the government shouldn’t dictate to her.
Moreover, it is imperative that concern and support for life extend beyond time spent in utero. I believe that pro-life means more than just pro-birth. Too often, the same people who are dead-set against abortion are dead-set against public funds being used to ensure that children have proper access to health care, food, shelter and education (including sex education and birth control to prevent unwanted pregnancies).
The pending measure is not a bill to expand or to end abortion in this state. Whether it passes or not, there will still be a legal right to abortion in RI. The challenge is to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies through education and accessible birth control, and to support the woman throughout pregnancy and at birth and beyond.
I’d prefer to have some amendments, as I don’t see this bill as perfect. Then again, no bill is perfect. And while amendments could make for a better bill, I don’t agree that this is an expansion of the status quo. The bill ensures that women who have abortions can do so safely ... largely because it’s legal.
Some folks have suggested that we’ve taken the positions we have because it’s easier, politically. But the Senators considering this – on both sides of the issue – view it as being of great importance, and don’t take it lightly. The fact is, there’s no easy position on this issue. I know that no matter how I proceed, I’ll lose some votes, some supporters, some people in my church, and even some friends…regardless of what other work I do to improve our state. I understand that.
Sadly, some people demonize anyone on the other side of the issue. Too often, the loud voices at both ends of the spectrum drown out the folks in the middle, who are discussing issues reasonably and respectfully. And the people who have been leaving nasty messages and emails seem to have no peripheral vision. Viewing pregnancy from polar opposites, some can see only a woman, and not a baby; others see only a baby, and not a woman.
I will take no satisfaction in voting on this bill. If it passes and becomes law, I recognize that some will celebrate that ... but I will not be one of them. Despite some of the vile things I’ve heard or received, however, I won’t be intimidated. I will vote as I have stated I will vote, and as I believe I should vote.
We should work to reduce unwanted pregnancies and abortions. We should provide and promote alternatives. We should improve access to education and to contraception. We should improve connections between those who would potentially abort and those who would potentially adopt.
I will support women and their families. And I will do what I can to improve the conditions into which children are born in Rhode Island. In that respect, we should strive to build a state where there is not abuse or indifference or suffering in a child’s future, but hope.

Mark McKenney
Senator, District 30,


14 comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here

A woman and her doctor are the best people to discuss the subject of abortion. We should continue to do all we can to provide affordable birth control and sex education to reduce unwanted pregnancies. When it comes down to a medical issue, it is not a decision by committee. It is a personal decision made with the help of medical professionals.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

There is no excuse for unwanted pregnancies anymore if people are acting responsibly. And as far as being for the life of The Mother, we are not in the dark ages and that just that never happens anymore so this is just an excuse to continue to kill babies and use abortion as birth control. A country is only as strong as its weakest citizens so we are barbaric the way we're still killing babies. And the only reason this is all being done is afraid to overturn Roe v Wade. I understand we want that as an option in the beginning months but we do not want it in the ending months in on live babies like it's happening here now. But we will all have to answer to God in the end if we continue to kill babies. You know we have to think of the Future too because in China years ago, they killed all female babies and guess what happened? The guys grew up with no women to marry so we need to start thinking ahead of not having the Next Generation when we are at the lowest of birth rates right now. We will be punished for all this killing of babies.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019
Judith Zimmer

Thank you, Senator McKenney for trusting women! Everything you said was true, and I know how difficult such a decision is for legislators. Ultimately, this is a matter for the secular government, not any particular religion, to decide. Polling has shown that RIers, for the most part, favor a woman's right to a safe and legal abortion, and I am glad that you agree. Histrionic, inaccurate comments have no place in such a serious issue and I am happy that you performed your own due diligence in order to reach a conclusion that is just.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Wow, Peggy...equating a woman's right to choose with the female baby genocide that happened in China...my mind is blown how you made that connection.

A woman is the person to make this decision about her own body. And, I am well past child rearing age; however, I have had an abortion. it was the right decision for me at the time.

I am grateful to people like Senator McKenney who will continue to fight for women's rights.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

It's interesting that you chose the word genocide because that's exactly what it is. And theirs were babies killed in the womb. Defintion of fetus "an unborn mammal; in particular an unborn humsn more than 8 weeks". Of ciurse, i believe it' s from conception. So it IS GENOCIDE on our part so it's a proper compatison. Thanks for bringing it up.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Nobody really has any idea what a woman goes through in making this decision. It is nobody's business. Period.

Oh yeah, and not even close to being the same thing that happened in China. Nice try though.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Abortion is murder and this country doing is genocide. Period. A baby is not part of a woman's body it is a separate life that deserves to live

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Peggy, you can make any decision you wish but your right stops at your door. If you come knocking on my door trying to tell me how I should act, then you are not going to like the reaction you receive.

Also, no one is advocating for late term abortion as a regular and routine procedure. It would only be if the life of the mother was in danger. Again, that is a medical decision that is made with the help of a professional who has experience with these types of issues. Not Peggy who posts on the Warwick Beacon that has no medical education or degree to chime in on this decision. If you aren't my doctor, you don't get any say in the decision. Despite what the propaganda machine is trying to spew, there are not hoards of women just waiting to have an abortion late term because they decided they didn't want to do this anymore.

If you want to insert yourself into my life to such a degree that you think you have the right to tell me when to have a baby, you can be darn sure I will insert myself into your life to make decisions for you that you may not like. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Administrations come and go but youth is on my side.

Friday, March 29, 2019
Jack Parquette

First, the bill offers no protection to the unborn child up to the moment of birth. "Health" of the mother is so loosely interpreted as to be meaningless, including not just physical health, but emotional, familial and economic health. In other words, anything goes. And the consulting doctor that interprets the health of the mother frequently doesn't meet her until she has been prepped for her abortion. So, please, Senator, at least be honest. There are many other points of your carefully crafted legalese that have been disputed ably by attorneys, and that refutation is widely available, so I won't pick at those nits with you.

Much more is at stake here. Many politicians from Mario Cuomo on down have pontificated that while they personally oppose abortion, their constituents favor it, so therefore, etc, etc. As has been said, hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue. I've never received an adequate answer to the question, why are you personally opposed? The inference is that you recognize the humanity of the unborn child, which has innate dignity and worth. If not our law makers, who defends that most vulnerable life? A profile in courage is needed to stand up to constituents who espouse a position morally repugnant to you. A profile sadly lacking in your words.

If you were serving as a senator in the very early nineteenth century when the majority of all Americans, both North and South, believed that slavery was morally acceptable, and you knew it to be objectively wrong, would you spout many words in the local paper to justify voting to uphold it because your constituents thought it expedient? And you valued votes more than principle? Could you still sleep soundly in your bed? A poll is not a valid moral argument.

I would at least have more respect for honesty. Yes, it's a child and abortion takes a life, that's why I'm personally opposed. But that tiny life has no voice, and the bigger, stronger voice who shows up at the statehouse wearing pink threatens to organize and defeat my reelection. That is what frightens me, so the loud voice takes precedence over the silent defenseless one.

Friday, March 29, 2019
Don Cavanaugh

The act, the act, the act. It is intrinsically evil and disordered to kill a child under any circumstance. This is comprehended through reason and nature (natural law). Killing a defenseless child when every ordered instinct in humans is to protect the most vulnerable. Our State motto, "Hope" from Hebrews, Chapter 6, verses 18 and 19.

Our RI Seal is the Anchor, it is a Jesus Anchor. Where is that enduring spirit, defined in 1 Corinthians 13:4, Love is...,

You'll even find "hope" in there!

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Thank you Mr. Paquette for saying many of the things that I wanted to say. The polls that he was talking even honest anyway.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Abortion is murder. There really isn't anything more to say.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019


"There really isn't anything else to say". You are absolutely correct. You are entitled to your opinion. I am entitled to my opinion. I have Roe V Wade on my side. You have heart beat bills on your side. I am not changing over to your side. You are not changing over to my side. There is nothing else to be said. Other than, my body, my choice. You want a say in it? Well, you don't get one.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Cat, you are exactly right. It is our choice....Nobody else's. Nobody knows a woman's circumstance when they make this decision. I made it 15 years ago...MY choice. And, I don't regret it. It was the right choice for me at the time.

Saturday, April 13, 2019