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 strongly oppose H7458. While it is a resolution and so therefore does not carry the same power of law as some of the other pieces being considered today, it is a very troubling concept. This resolution introduces the concerning idea of personhood and the idea that the government or a set of politicians get to decide or determine when life begins. This flies in the face of each person’s ability to follow their own religion and faith beliefs on important questions about life and conception and big questions that should come from our own traditions and not a legislative hearing.
This resolution also builds on – and takes language from policies in other states around the idea of banning abortion upon the presence of cardiac activity – or a “heartbeat”. This is where bills like the one being litigated in Texas come down and ban abortion before many people even know that they are pregnant.
However we feel about abortion, it is a health decision that should be made by each person in consultation with the people they trust. The idea of whether terminating a pregnancy is moral is NOT a question for politicians. This is something each person must decide for themselves. But it is not just that this is yet another instance of debating whether or not we will — as Rhode Island law currently does after majority support for the Reproductive Privacy Act in 2019 – protect the right to abortion that is at stake when we start to talk about personhood concepts.
It has been widely agreed that legislation attempting to determine personhood can have implications on the use of certain fertility treatments. Additionally, it can have serious and disturbing implications for pregnant people. In states where this type of legislative action has been taken we have seen pregnant women arrested for reckless driving, investigated after having a miscarriage and jailed when seeking treatment for addiction.
The National Advocates for Pregnant Women have documented hundreds of cases in which laws that were supposed to “protect life” during a pregnancy have been used to harass and interrogate pregnant people and even arrest and jail folks for everything from suspected drug use to attempted suicide.
Again, this is a resolution, but we know that these are often used as tools to build towards legislation. We caution against having the concept of personhood become a political debate in our General Assembly. It is not the place of the state legislature to define when life begins or to decide the type of healthcare a person should or should not access.
Rhode Island is a state with a large number of people who are proud to be people of faith – many of whom identify as Catholic. People across traditions and even within traditions have different concepts around life and feelings about the question of abortion. To truly protect religious liberty we must allow each person to follow their own beliefs rather than have the government impose one set of beliefs on the state. We urge you to oppose H7458. Thank you.
Contact: Jocelyn Foye, 401-400-0061, [email protected]