Providence Journal: Regunberg calls on R.I. Assembly to reconvene to protect abortion rights

 

The state representative’s call followed Wednesday’s retirement announcement by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, and members of R.I.’s congressional delegation weighed in on the ramifications — and timing — of filling Kennedy’s seat on the bench.

PROVIDENCE — Soon after Wednesday’s announcement that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy is retiring, state Rep. Aaron Regunberg, D-Providence, is calling for the General Assembly “to return immediately for an emergency session to pass the Reproductive Health Care Act.”

The legislation from Rep. Edith Ajello and Sen. Gayle Goldin, both Providence Democrats, would codify existing abortion rights into state law. It failed to get floor votes in 2017 and 2018.

But it looks as if the answer to Regunberg, who is running for lieutenant governor, is a flat no.

“Our session adjourned for 2018,” said Larry Berman, spokesman for House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, and the House will remain out of session until Jan. 1.

“For two years, women across Rhode Island and advocates in the State House have been begging state leaders to take action regarding the imminent threat to Roe v. Wade, and for years we have been dismissed,” Regunberg said in a news release.

“The establishment said everything will be fine — well, they were wrong, and today time has run out. With Justice Kennedy’s retirement, Republicans are already moving to strike down Roe v. Wade as quickly as possible. We need to take emergency action to defend the right to choose in Rhode Island. That’s why I am calling on state and legislative leaders who have failed Rhode Island women for the last two years to immediately reconvene so we can take up the Reproductive Health Care Act and protect this critical right at the state level, no matter what happens in Washington.”

Gov. Gina Raimondo said last night that she joins “all Americans to express my sincere appreciation for Justice Kennedy’s decades of service to our nation.” But also said she is “deeply concerned about the direction the Supreme Court will take ... As Rhode Islanders, we can stand up to protect the people that President Trump seeks to marginalize. It’s now more urgent than ever that the legislature pass the Reproductive Health Care Act so that we can protect a woman’s right to choose in Rhode Island against any decision a Trump Court might make.”

Meanwhile, in Washington, U.S. Rep. David Cicilline, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, called on the U.S. Senate to wait until after November’s midterm elections to consider Kennedy’s replacement.

“In light of the serious allegations of corruption that have been raised against the President, the ongoing Special Counsel investigation, and the standard Republicans set in 2016 when they denied Merrick Garland a single hearing on his Supreme Court nomination, I believe the Senate should wait until after the midterms to consider Justice Kennedy’s replacement. The American people deserve to have a voice in this process,” Cicilline said in a news release.

U.S. Sen. Jack Reed praised Kennedy for serving as a “pivotal swing vote on the Supreme Court for the last three decades when it came to women’s health, LGBT rights, civil liberties, and a number of other important issues where the American people want even-handed and thoughtful decisions.”

However, he echoed Cicilline’s concerns about the timing of filling Kennedy’s seat, saying, “Our Republican colleagues appear to be taking the hypocritical step of rejecting their own precedent about considering a Supreme Court nominee in an election year.”

“My focus will be ensuring the Senate takes its time to get this right and fighting any nominee who wants to move America backwards and thinks money and power are always right,” Reed said.

U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse weighed in as well:

“On the heels of another Supreme Court term defined by a Republican 5-4 majority delivering big wins for right-wing and corporate interests, Justice Kennedy’s retirement should be a wake-up call to anyone who cares about equality and justice for all. With decisions like we’ve seen this week, the American people ought to be on high alert to this troubling pattern. I’ll do everything in my power to keep President Trump, Senator McConnell, and their dark-money backers from installing another nominee predetermined to assist the wealthy and powerful.”

 
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