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Woman creates 'Me, still me' movement as RI lawmakers mull abortion bills

Nichole Rowley, a mother of two, is asking Rhode Island legislators who support a bill that would legalize late-term abortion to rethink their stance. (Photos courtesy of Nichole Rowley)
Nichole Rowley, a mother of two, is asking Rhode Island legislators who support a bill that would legalize late-term abortion to rethink their stance. (Photos courtesy of Nichole Rowley)
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A Rhode Island woman is asking legislators who support abortion bills to rethink their stance.

Nichole Rowley, a mother of two, said she and her husband, Tyler, recently received a card from Gov. Gina Raimondo. The delivery marked six months since Rowley gave birth to their second son, Fulton.

“The card expressed the joy of having children, but the sentiment didn’t make sense coming from Governor Raimondo,” Rowley told NBC 10 News in an email. “If children are such a special gift, as the card claims, why does she offer those children no rights before they are born?”

Rowley, who lives in Lincoln and attends St. Pius V, said the card references their infant as a “sweet little child” who will “fill our home with joy” and “how concerned the governor is about the health” of their son.

“Governor Raimondo claims to be Catholic and is publicly lobbying for Rhode Island to pass radical abortion legislation,” Rowley said.

In the governor’s State of the State Address, Raimondo vowed to support the Rhode Island Reproductive Health Care Act, which is co-sponsored by Sen. Gayle L. Goldin and Rep. Edith H. Ajello, who represent Providence. A spokeswoman for Ajello told NBC 10 on Monday that more than half of the House and nearly half of the Senate have signed on as co-sponsors.

A hearing on the bill is scheduled Tuesday afternoon before the House Judiciary Committee at the State House, with Rowley and her husband to testify against it.

If approved, the bill would “codify the current state of the law on reproductive rights in Rhode Island set forth under the landmark Roe v. Wade case, limiting restrictions” on a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy.

“Let's make this the year we codify women's access to reproductive health care here in Rhode Island,” Raimondo said during her speech.

After hearing those words, Rowley said she and Tyler decided to mail the governor back the card, along with a card of their own, plus two photos inside: a picture of Fulton at 12 weeks in the womb, and another of him a few hours after birth. The words, “Me, Still me,” were printed across the photos.

“We posted the same photos to Facebook and many of our friends followed suit and posted their own “Me...Still me” photos to Facebook and mailed them to the Governor,” Rowley noted on social media, later telling NBC 10 that about a half dozen other women have participated. “The feedback and support has been overwhelming. We hope the message resonates with our Governor and that others are encouraged to perform the simple act of sending these photos to their pro-abortion legislators using the hashtag #mestillme.”

Raimondo, along with Goldin and Ajello, have been pushing the Rhode Island Reproductive Health Care Act since 2017, saying politicians in Washington are putting women's health care at risk.

"With women’s healthcare under attack in Washington, it’s more urgent than ever that we take proactive steps to enshrine women’s access to reproductive care here in Rhode Island," Raimondo's spokesman told NBC 10 News Monday.

Goldin and Ajello said the goal is to "defend against threats at the federal level.” They said threats include “a conservative-leaning Supreme Court and a president and the leader of the U.S. Senate who are opposed to reproductive freedom" and want to protect Rhode Islanders "in the case of any federal rollback of rights."

“Rhode Islanders overwhelmingly support the reproductive rights that are currently the law of the land. But our state law books include multiple, in some cases, very intentional contradictions to the rights articulated by Roe v. Wade,” Ajello, a Democrat who represents District 1, noted in a press release. “Unfortunately, with the individuals in power in Washington right now, there is a very real chance that Roe v. Wade could be overturned at some point in the near future, leaving Rhode Island women subject to these insidiously restrictive, harmful and patriarchal reproductive laws. Half a century of progress would be wiped away, and we would return to the days when women were forced to put their lives at risk in making personal reproductive health decisions.”

Goldin shared similar sentiments.

“Despite Rhode Islanders’ decisive support of reproductive rights, our state has lacked the political will to repeal these unconstitutional laws for more than 45 years, and instead has even tried to create new ones that have been struck down,” Goldin, a Democrat who represents District 3, said. “Ignoring the will of the people in this case will have devastating impacts on women’s health in the very real possibility that those opposed to these rights succeed in eliminating their protection at the federal level. Women deserve better from the leaders of our state. Rhode Island must affirm, once and for all, that a women’s right to make decisions about her own body is protected in our state, before the federal government stops doing that job for us.”

The legislation is identical to the bill the women introduced during the 2018 session. The bill would:

  • prohibit the state or any of its agencies from interfering with any individual’s reproductive health care, including a decision to terminate a pregnancy prior to fetal viability, or after that point in cases when necessary to preserve the woman’s health or life
  • eliminate several chapters that make it a criminal offense to perform an abortion or help a woman obtain one, as well as a law enacted in 1973 following the Roe v. Wade decision that defines human life as commencing “at the instant of conception.”
  • eliminate laws requiring that the husband of any married woman is notified before she can terminate a pregnancy
  • lift restrictions that prevent insurers from covering the procedure

Goldin and Ajello referenced NARAL Pro-choice America, which lists Rhode Island as having the most restrictive abortion laws in New England. They said, “the agency ranks Rhode Island worse than even conservative states like Alaska and Montana, because their laws have more adequate protections of women’s right to make their own health care decisions.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Anatasia Williams, who also represents Providence, introduced the Reproductive Privacy Act last week. The bill, similarly, would codify Roe v. Wade into law.

When NBC 10 asked Rowley what she would say to others who believe a woman has the right to choose, she said, “We should limit or prevent people’s choices when they hurt or kill other people.”

“I would remind them that the basis of human rights is that all innocent human beings have a natural right to life. The logical conclusion is obvious: the unborn are human beings who deserve the right to life and abortion is a human rights violation.”

Her husband, Tyler, who attended this year’s annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., agrees.

“Forty-six years ago, our country made a terrible mistake and every year since Americans have come together to declare that the unborn are not forgotten and we will never stop fighting for their right to life,” said Tyler, who is the executive director of the Servants of Christ for Life. “Our nation was founded upon the principle that every human being possesses the right to life, so we continue to plead with our countrymen and elected officials to logically conclude what any reasonable person would conclude — that unborn human beings should be granted that basic human right.”

Rowley said she and Tyler plan to send back the card from when their first son, Gerard, was born, as well. They also hope to launch the “Me, Still me” movement.

“We bought the website and are in the process of making this something much more,” Rowley said. “We want to encourage people to send the same message to their pro-abortion legislators.”

A spokesman for the governor said the congratulations cards have been sent from Rhode Island governors to the parents of all Rhode Islanders born in the state for more than 20 years.

"Hallmark provides the cards and envelopes. Hallmark started this initiative as a partnership with the Missouri Governor’s office and now makes this available to all 50 state governors," the spokesman noted. "The purpose of the card is to promote the importance of immunization and regular check-ups to keep babies healthy."

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