Revised abortion rights bill transferred to different Senate Committee
By: Brittany Comak
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – The controversial bill to codify Roe v. Wade in Rhode Island law will live another day - but in another committee, after it was transferred this afternoon.
Tempers flared at Tuesday's meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
"This is a legal murder issue!" shouted Minority Whip Elaine Morgan, after Chairwoman Erin Lynch Prata said she there would be no vote, and she would be transferring the bill to the Health and Human Services Committee.
The move came after a plan by Republican leadership to vote at today's meeting in an 'ex officio' capacity, in an effort to sway the vote.
"Senator! This is my committee and I am the chair! I have made a ruling pursuant to the chair that I am transferring the bill," replied Lynch Prata.
'Ex officio' means any minority or majority leader can vote on a bill in any committee, but Lynch Prata said that it's usually reserved for non-controversial issues, calling Tuesday's events "out of the norm."
"It's very clear that Chairwoman Lynch Prata is making every effort to keep this bill alive," said Amanda Skinner of Planned Parenthood.
In a statement, Senate President Ruggierio said in part:
“This morning, I learned that Republican members sitting in an ex-officio capacity planned to launch an unprecedented last minute political stunt to torpedo this bill.
“Throughout the day, I implored Republican leadership not to undermine the hard work of the Senate Judiciary Committee by abusing their powers as ex-officio members."
“The transfer of the bill to our Health and Human Services Committee ensures a path forward.”
Lynch Prata said she discussed the transfer with President Ruggerio shortly before the meeting.
"We sat down, we looked at the rules, and we looked at what our options were, and we made a decision today," said Lynch Prata.
Republican leadership at Tuesday's meeting included Minority Whip Elaine Morgan and Minority Leader Dennis Algier. Morgan tried to object to the transfer.
Lynch Prata said it would be a disservice to the committee for them to vote, because they have not listened to all of the testimony.
"I did listen to all of the testimony,' said Morgan. "And obviously they did not because there were more testimony against this bill than there was for it."
Those on either side of the issue say they see positives in the transfer.
"I'm really encouraged that this legislation is going forward," said Joseph Pearson, who is Pro-Choice.
"Positive that it did not go through tonight," said Kara Young, who is Pro-Life. "But there's definitely a lot of concern about the committee that they transferred it to."
The bill will get a vote in the Health and Human Services Committee Thursday night.
©WLNE-TV / ABC6 2019