(Providence, R.I.) — On March 2, 2016 Planned Parenthood of Southern New England (PPSNE) and local allies discussed how reproductive freedom is at risk in Rhode Island. PPSNE sponsored the event along with the RI Coalition for Reproductive Justice and Brown Medical Students for Choice. A diverse crowd of more than 100 people of all ages, races and genders attended the “Reproductive Freedom Teach In” that connected the national political climate to local policies and decisions in Rhode Island.
The expert panel spent time discussing Rhode Island officials’ beliefs on reproductive health care services and how the state is viewed by leading women’s rights groups. NARAL Pro-choice America recently gave Rhode Island an F rating on its annual women’s reproductive rights report card – downgraded from a D+. Gov. Gina Raimondo was rated as “mixed-choice” in support of reproductive rights, and the RI House and Senate were labeled as “anti-choice” by NARAL.
“The score NARAL gave Rhode Island is the same grade given to states like Texas and South Dakota. We know state laws restricting access to reproductive health care have a very real and devastating impact on women’s lives. Rhode Islanders oppose political attempts to restrict access to reproductive health care services,” said Craig O’Connor, Rhode Island Director of Public Policy & Government Relations with Planned Parenthood of Southern New England. “Rhode Islanders deserve high-quality, compassionate and affordable health care. We will continue to work every day to ensure all Rhode Island women and families can realize that right.”
Panelists included Gina Rodríguez Drix, co-founder, Rhode Island Doula Collective, Pablo Rodriguez, MD, President & CEO, Women’s Care, Amy Retsinas Romero, Esq., President, Women’s Health & Education Fund of Rhode Island and Vanessa Volz, Esq., Executive Director, Sojourner House. O’Connor served as moderator.
Community partners and allies such as the Women’s Health and Education Fund, Rhode Island College Women’s Center, ACLU of Rhode Island, Rhode Island Doula Collective, Sojourner House, Rhode Island League of Women Voters and many more had resource tables with pertinent Rhode Island information and helped make the event a success.
The Reproductive Freedom Teach In was held the same day in which the United States Supreme Court began hearing arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the most important Supreme Court case about abortion in almost 25 years. Panelists discussed the Supreme Court case, Targeted Regulations Against Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws, and what is at stake for women nationally and in Rhode Island with anti-choice legislation.
“TRAP laws, such as those in Texas that are being challenged before the Supreme Court, are not only unnecessary, but also a cruel and cynical attempt by anti-choice extremists to make abortion less accessible to poor women in the guise of protecting women’s health,” said Pablo Rodriguez, MD, Chair of the Women & Infants Health Care Alliance and President & CEO of Women’s Care. “Women’s health is protected by having these regulations declared an undue burden and unconstitutional.”
A survey conducted in 2014 revealed that 48 percent of Rhode Island voters did not know whether their own state legislator supported or opposed a woman making her own decision on abortion. An overwhelming 93 percent of Rhode Island voters believe it is important for women in Rhode Island to have access to all of the reproductive health-care options available to them. A full 85 percent expressed support for all available options, including abortion. This belief is true for both women and men.
The Reproductive Freedom Teach In is the first of what will be future public forums and discussions about reproductive freedom in Rhode Island. The next scheduled event is Lobby Day on March 23 at the Rhode Island State House.
To catch up on the Reproductive Freedom Teach In, search the hashtags #ReproductiveFreedomRI and #DontMessWithRIEither on social media.
To learn more or to get involved with Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, email [email protected].
Planned Parenthood of Southern New England (PPSNE) is one of the region’s largest providers of family planning and reproductive health care services. Since 1923, PPSNE has evolved into an organization with 18 health centers in Connecticut and Rhode Island, delivering care to nearly 70,000 patients annually, and 90 percent of the services provided are preventive.