PROVIDENCE — Indicating that 70% of Rhode Islanders support abortion rights, Gov. Daniel McKee signed into effect an executive order on July 5 declaring Rhode Island to be a sanctuary state for out of state persons seeking abortion.
In the order, McKee quoted from Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s concurring opinion in the recent Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case that the overturn of Roe v. Wade was merely a statement on the constitutionality of a particular set of anti-abortion laws and certain legal concepts (namely, that people have a constitutional right to an abortion); the Supreme Court does not have any authority to pass pro-life or pro-choice laws on a federal level.
McKee went on to note that the recent SCOTUS decision allows each state to determine the extent to which abortion is legal. In light of this, McKee further noted that since 2019 the State of Rhode Island has codified in its legal code rather broad allowances of abortion. He finally expressed a concern over access to abortion being limited in more conservative states.
On the basis of this, McKee decreed that no organization or employee within the state can, unless mandated by a ruling from the courts, “expend or use time, money, facilities, property, equipment, personnel or other resources in the furtherance of an investigation or proceeding initiated in or by another state that seeks to impose civil or criminal liability or professional sanction” against any resident of another state who either receives or administers an abortion in the state of Rhode Island, inquiries into the legal status of abortion in the state of Rhode Island or who assists others in the administering or receiving of abortion in the State. McKee also decreed that the governor of Rhode Island is to decline requests from another state to issue an arrest warrant against a person from that state who either receives or administers and abortion in Rhode Island. In addition, the order states that those who receive or administer abortions in the State of Rhode Island shall not be subject to any liabilities unless their actions violate a regulation on abortion already in effect in the State of Rhode Island.
In a press release issued on the day the executive order was signed, Governor McKee was quoted as saying, “Women should be trusted with their own bodies, and here in Rhode Island, we firmly support a right to choose.”
“The executive order I signed today ensures that Rhode Island will continue to stand up for reproductive health care,” McKee stated, calling the recent overturn of Roe v. Wade “shameful.”
The Rhode Island Catholic Conference has called the governor’s executive order shameful.
“Governor McKee has designated Rhode Island a sanctuary state for abortion, which is to say a sanctuary state for killing, for killing the innocent. His actions are shameful,” Father Bernard Healey, director of the Rhode Island Catholic Conference, said in an interview with Rhode Island Catholic.
“In an effort to get elected, he has willingly sacrificed the innocent unborn on the altar of the culture of death,” Father Healey said, noting that every citizen of this state should “redouble their efforts to build a culture of life that respects human life,” particularly the lives of women and unborn children who are most affected by this bill.
Rhode Island Right to Life also expressed its disappointment with the governor’s decree.
“I cannot think of any sane motivation to explain McKee’s order,” said Barth Bracy, director of Rhode Island Right to Life, describing McKee’s order as embodying an extreme political stance.
“Dan McKee is a complete disappointment for any and all who believed that he would govern as a moderate,” Bracy said, noting how this executive order represents an attempt on the part of McKee to “keep peace with the most radical fringe of his Democratic Party.”
Bracy also disputed the accuracy of the percentage of Rhode Islanders who support abortion rights expressed by McKee as justification for issuing the executive order, noting that the governor was not only taking a radical political stance, but one also predicated on factually false sentiments.
“The Boston Globe reported new poll findings just last week indicating that only 37% of Rhode Islanders support abortion after six weeks, only 35% after fetal heartbeat is detected, and only 19% after fetal viability,” Bracy noted.
“The fact that McKee is unaware of how out of touch he and his party have become with the people of Rhode Island suggests the possibility of a political realignment in coming years, beginning with the current election cycle,” Bracy said, concluding that “Rhode Islanders are increasingly repulsed by the evils McKee is determined to embrace.”