My name is Jocelyn Foye. I am a mother, an artist, and the Director of The Womxn Project. The Womxn Project is a statewide organization focused on leveraging the power of art, activism, advocacy and education to advance the principles of reproductive justice, which demands that we all have the right to determine when and how we build our relationships, families and futures and that we have the ability to live and raise our children with dignity.
I am here to testify for myself in strong opposition to H7189, which is a vaguely written ban on abortion that seems to be focused on abortion later in pregnancy and yet also includes language referencing procedures as early as 8 weeks. Given that a majority of abortion care is provided very early in pregnancy, this could be interpreted as an outright and complete ban on access except in cases of medical emergency.
According to the CDC’s Abortion Surveillance Data, the vast majority of abortions (91%) occur at or before 13 weeks gestation. There is an extremely low number of procedures after the first trimester, but it is important to note that bans on abortion later in pregnancy ignore the reality behind why people may need to seek care at that point. Not all pregnancies go the way a family hopes they will. Because each situation is different, we should protect the ability for people to make tough health decisions in consultation with those we trust and with the support of our health professionals who can help us to weigh all of the options in a difficult moment.
There are many instances where people face complications later in pregnancy and may decide that they need to end a pregnancy. They may be trying to protect their health or future fertility or facing a serious health issue. There are also times when people are forced to delay getting care because of barriers on access to care. There are also financial barriers, like restrictions that withhold insurance coverage for abortion. We need to try to understand and support people and get rid of barriers to care, not judge them or make already difficult situations that much worse.
It is not our place to judge someone facing a difficult diagnosis or pregnancy complication and we certainly shouldn’t take away health care options. It is bad health policy and downright cruel. Beyond the concepts in the bill around discussions of times at which access can or could be limited, which are concerning enough, this legislation also includes deceptive and in some cases disproven scientific and medical claims.
The bill suggests the use of fetal anesthesia in the performance of abortions. To administer an anesthetic or analgesic to the fetus, you’d have to go through the pregnant person first using general anesthesia — which renders them unconscious or a heavy dose of narcotics. Both options are much riskier than the IV drugs people would normally get during a second-trimester abortion and neither is standard medical practice for abortions. As it relates to questions around fetal pain and the use of anesthesia, we should support whatever research is needed from non-biased, medical sources grounded in best medical practice. What we should NOT do is have politicians dictating medicine or interfering with medical practice.
It is clear to me given this bill has been submitted along with a slew of other copycats from other states that also include some questionable claims, that this is not as much about gestational limits as much as a calculated agenda to take away all access to abortion. It is about taking away the ability to make our own decisions. It is not about a certain point in pregnancy or a certain health program. It is about trying to make care unaffordable and make it harder for clinics to provide abortion.
Even if someone disagrees with the decision to seek abortion or if they are uncomfortable with the circumstances where someone needs to get an abortion later in pregnancy, it isn’t something we should interfere with. Lawmakers should not be – and really no one should be – inserting themselves into a moment where a person is working with a health professional and the people they trust to try to deal with a pregnancy complication or a tough circumstance.
I hope that we can consider not only public health and what works best to ensure the health and wellbeing of all Rhode Islanders way outside of political debates. I hope that we can craft legislation in a way that is comes from a place of compassion. I hope we can respect the profound and personal decisions around pregnancy and that it is simply not a place anyone – least of all the government – should be interfering.
I urge you to vote no on H7189. Thank you.
Contact: Jocelyn Foye, 401-400-0061, [email protected]