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Rhode Island

Abortion Ban

AFTER 12 WEEKS

Rhode Island has an unconstitutional and unenforceable ban that outlaws abortion procedures as early as 12 weeks.  R.I. Gen. Laws Ann. §§ 23-4.12-1 (Enacted 1997; Last Amended 1998), 23-4.12-2 (Enacted 1997), 23-4.12-3 (Enacted 1997), 23-4.12-4 (Enacted 1997), 23-4.12-5 (Enacted 1997; Last Amended 1998), 23-4.12-6 (Enacted 1997).

A court held that Rhode Island's ban is unconstitutionally vague and has issued a permanent injunction prohibiting its enforcement. Rhode Island Med. Soc'y v. Whitehouse, 239 F.3d 104 (1st Cir. 2001).  The U.S. Supreme Court previously held that a similar ban that has no exception to protect a woman's health and that bans more than one procedure places an undue burden on a woman's right to choose and is unconstitutional.  Stenberg v. Carhart, 530 U.S. 914 (2000).

Rhode Island's unconstitutional and unenforceable law makes any abortion procedure that falls within a broad definition a felony.  The law has an exception if an abortion is necessary to preserve the life of a woman endangered by a physical disorder, physical illness, or physical injury, including a life-endangering condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself, and no other medical procedure will suffice.  R.I. Gen. Laws Ann. §§ 23-4.12-1 (Enacted 1997; Last Amended 1998), 23-4.12-2 (Enacted 1997), 23-4.12-3 (Enacted 1997), 23-4.12-4 (Enacted 1997), 23-4.12-5 (Enacted 1997; Last Amended 1998), 23-4.12-6 (Enacted 1997).

There is also a Federal Abortion Ban, which applies nationwide regardless of state law.  The federal ban prohibits certain second-trimester abortion procedures and has no exception for a woman's health.  In April 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the ban, making it the first time since Roe v. Wade that the court has upheld a ban on a previability abortion procedure. Click here to read more about the Federal Abortion Ban.


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