Thomas More Society files amicus brief against former Governor Raimondo on behalf of local pro-life group


PROVIDENCE — The Thomas More Society has filed an amicus brief on behalf of a local Catholic pro-life group and other plaintiffs who are challenging the 2019 law that codified and expanded abortion rights in Rhode Island.
In its brief, which was submitted to the Supreme Court of Rhode Island on July 15, the Chicago-based Thomas More Society argues that voters and preborn children have standing to challenge the constitutionality of Rhode Island’s 2019 Reproductive Privacy Act.
“There are several issues here in which a lower court erred,” Thomas Olp, vice president and senior counsel at the Thomas More Society, said in prepared remarks explaining the public interest in the case.
In a press release announcing the amicus brief’s filing, Olp argued that the personhood of a pre- or post-viable child in utero, in this case, is not negated by the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade that declared abortion to be a constitutional right.
“We are asking the court to acknowledge that a preborn child has standing to challenge the Reproductive Privacy Act’s removal of legal protections under Rhode Island law, including the fetal homicide law and other laws that may protect her,” Olp said.
The wording of the 2019 legislation allows abortions in Rhode Island to be performed after a fetus is viable outside the womb — usually around the 22nd week of pregnancy — in cases where the physician determines it is necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.
Local pro-life leaders have argued that the new law, which is similar to legislation passed that year in New York and other states, makes it easier for women to obtain late-term abortions for virtually any reason.
“The New York style abortion-on-demand bill passed by the General Assembly and signed by then-Governor Gina Raimondo may be the most shameful event in the history of Rhode Island,” said Barth E. Bracy, the executive director of the Rhode Island Right to Life Committee.
“Through a series of treacherous, thuggish, and possibly illegal machinations, abortion proponents succeeded in creating a first-ever “right” under state law to take the life of an innocent human being,” Bracy said. “At the legislature, at the ballot box, and before the courts, this ignominious statute should be vigorously opposed and, pray God soon, overturned. I pray that the good efforts of the plaintiffs and the Thomas More Society will prosper.”
In 2019, the plaintiffs, including Catholics for Life, filed their lawsuit in a lower state court arguing that the law violated their rights as citizens of Rhode Island. Two of the plaintiffs were unborn children; a pre-viable 15-week old fetus and a post-viable 34-week old fetus.
“Rhode Island is a unique state with respect to the unborn child prior to the passage of the [Reproductive Privacy Act],” said Diane Messere Magee, a Warren attorney who is representing the plaintiffs.
The plaintiffs’ lawsuit argues that prior to the 2019 law, an unborn post-viable fetus was recognized as a “person” entitled to relief in Rhode Island state courts. The lawsuit says the Reproductive Privacy Act “immediately and irrevocably” stripped the unborn’s privileged legal status, rights and protections.
The lawsuit names former Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, the current U.S. Secretary of Commerce, and her administration as defendants.
In November 2019, a lower court dismissed the plaintiffs’ case, ruling that none of the plaintiffs had standing to bring suit. The court also said the unborn children named as plaintiffs did not have rights as persons to make a legal challenge.
If that ruling is overturned on appeal, Magee said it would make Rhode Island the first state in the country where an unborn child is given the right to sue an abortion law.
“And that’s very significant,” said Magee, who welcomed the Thomas More Society’s amicus brief filing.
“It shows they see the value and merits of the case,” she said.
In addition to the personhood rights of preborn children, the Thomas More Society’s amicus brief makes the argument that, in the Reproductive Privacy Act, Rhode Island’s voters were illegally deprived of their right to vote on what the brief suggests amounts to a constitutional amendment.
“The General Assembly on its own has no power to alter the Constitution and it acted unlawfully in doing so through passage of the RPA,” argues the Thomas More Society, which notes that the Rhode Island constitution explicitly states it does not grant or secure the right of abortion.