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.

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