Wednesday, July 2, 2014



Steve Ahlquist

Over 100 people representing dozens of local and national groups dedicated to defending the rights of women to make their own reproductive healthcare decisions will be gathering on the sidewalk at 945 Bald Hill Rd in Warwick, Rhode Island to both protest the recent decision by the Supreme Court favoring Hobby Lobby’s right to religious discrimination and to announce a permanent boycott of all Hobby Lobby stores nationwide. The Facebook event can be accessed here.

“For too long legislatures and courts in this country have been targeting the right of women to access adequate healthcare, which must include reproductive health care, including birth control and abortion,” said protest organizer Steve Ahlquist, President of the Humanists of Rhode Island, “Hobby Lobby’s decision to not cover certain kinds of birth control and their decision to go to the Supreme Court in an effort to protect the imagined religious rights of corporations is an affront to humanity that cannot be tolerated.”

“This is a deeply disappointing and troubling ruling that will prevent some women, especially those working hourly wage jobs and struggling to make ends meet, from getting birth control,” said Susan Yolen, representing the Rhode Island Coalition for Reproductive Justice, with over twenty member organizations.

Carolyn Mark, of the Rhode Island chapter of the National Organization for Women, said, “The Supreme Court's decision in the Hobby Lobby case shows a shocking disregard for the religious liberty of working women who should have the right to make their own heath care decisions in concert with their doctor and their faith and not to have those decisions made for them by their employer. This decision will most certainly embolden those forces in our society that wish to withhold a full range of health care options for women. But make no mistake. It has also enraged many women and men across this country who will not stand idly by while the Supreme Court upholds the religious rights of corporations over those of the individual.”

“This ruling is based not on the Constitution, but on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a statute. This statute was adopted by Congress and must be repealed by Congress,” said Debbie Flitman, a local mother and member of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, “The FFRF's amicus brief was the only brief before the Supreme Court that argued that RFRA is unconstitutional. Our important brief points out that RFRA ‘accords religious believers extreme religious liberty rights that yield a political and fiscal windfall in violation of the clearest commands of the Establishment Clause.’ The RFRA is a bad law that must be repealed."

“This was not a ‘narrow’ win for Hobby Lobby,” said Lauren Niedel, speaking for the Rhode Island Progressive Democrats, “this was a huge loss for privacy, a huge loss for a woman's guaranteed access to affordable prescribed contraception options and a loss to an individual’s right to religious freedom.”

Christine Eldridge, speaking as the Director of the Rhode Island chapter of the Secular Coalition for America, said, “This unfortunate decision places the religious opinions of for-profit business owners above the rights of female employees to make their own personal health care choices. It is absurd that the Supreme Court would rule that these corporations have religious rights and that they can use these rights to deny women contraceptive coverage that was mandated under the Affordable Care Act.”

A recent Poll commissioned by Planned Parenthood of Southern New England showed that in Rhode Island those who believe abortion should be generally available outnumber opponents by a staggering 8 to 1, higher than most places in the country. Even among Catholics the numbers are completely lopsided in favor of abortion. There is a clear consensus on this issue in Rhode Island. We do not want corporations interfering in our private medical decisions.

Similar protests will be taking place across the country, like this one in Mobile, Alabama, or these in Texas or this one in New Jersey.

Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism and other supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.

Humanists of Rhode Island is dedicated to good works and service projects that will best demonstrate our ideals.

Hobby Lobby Protest, Saturday, July 5th in Warwick

Hobby Lobby Protest
945 Bald Hill Rd, Warwick, Rhode Island 02886 
Saturday, July 5

The recent decision from the Supreme Court that grants corporations the right to freedom of religion over the rights of human beings, especially women to exercise their own, is egregious.

Hobby Lobby may have won in court but that doesn't mean this is over. No one who thinks women are more important than the fictional rights of corporations should ever shop at Hobby Lobby ever again.

Let this corporation and the world know, we are not going to let this go.

Bring signs, bring sunblock and wear hats. We want this to be a positive event, filled with freedom and the hope for a better future. There will be a chance for some short speeches if anyone is interested, and we will be inviting the media to this event.

We will be meeting on the sidewalk, for Bald Hill Rd visibility.

Please share this event far and wide.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Testimony before the House Judiciary Committee March 11, 2014

Today the Rhode Island House Judiciary Committee will be hearing public testimony on 12 bills concerned with expanding or contracting the reproductive rights of women. Some of the bills, like the fetal personhood and mandatory ultrasound bill, are heard every year, introduced like clockwork by legislators eager to curry religious favor.

Every year, representatives of the Humanists of Rhode Island go to the State House and testify on these bills. This year the Humanists of Rhode Island are part of the Rhode Island Coalition for Reproductive Justice, made up of over a dozen groups dedicated to preserving women's reproductive rights. 

Some of the bills introduced this year are quite good. One in particular seeks to do away with the archaic law requiring that a woman seek permission from her spouse before accessing accessing an abortion.

In general, speakers are given two minutes to address the legislators, a very short amount of time to address twelve separate and very different bills. Below is the testimony I've prepared and hope to deliver.
My name is Steve Ahlquist and I am the president of The Humanists of Rhode Island. Since its inception the Humanists of Rhode Island have taken a strong stand for women’s rights and reproductive justice. I am proud to speak here today not only for the members of my group but for the thousands of non-religious Rhode Islanders who feel they lack a voice when bills are introduced that treat women as second class citizens unable to make their own decisions surrounding health care and reproduction.

The fetal personhood and mandatory ultrasound bill are childish exercises in religious pandering and are frankly embarrassing in the state that invented church/state separation.

More insidious are those bills that use the power of the legislature to craft policies that make access to abortion economically difficult for women by altering their health care plans. Singling out reproductive health care services from all other medical procedures for special legislation is nonsensical from the point of view of a secular state. Further, placing economic hurdles in the paths of women seeking to access legal medical procedures smacks of class warfare.

If these bills were to pass, reproductive rights would be reserved only for those special enough to afford it.

Finally, the idea that a woman must notify her spouse before getting an abortion seems a sad holdover from the days when women were considered little more than property, to be bargained with like farm animals. Not treating women as fully autonomous beings with a full set of human rights should fill the hearts of free people with revulsion.

For these reasons, the Humanists of Rhode Island fully support bills H7222, H7223, H7779, H7837, H7853, H7472 and H7890.

For these reasons, the Humanists of Rhode Island oppose bills H7303, H7330, H7383, H7403 and H7854.