Header, the Administration of the Honorable Lincoln C. Almond
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July 2, 1997


I am transmitting to the Secretary of State, with my signature, 97-H-5159, Substitute A, As Amended "An Act Relating to Accident and Sickness Insurance Policies," which was amended to include a ban on "Partial-Birth Abortions."

This Act criminalizes the knowing performance of an abortion "in which the person performing the abortion partially vaginally delivers a living human fetus before killing the infant and completing the delivery." The Act prohibits anyone from performing a partial-birth abortion unless it is the only abortion procedure which would save the life of the mother. Violation of the law gives rise to civil remedies for the mother, father and maternal grandparents of the fetus or infant unless the pregnancy resulted from the plaintiffs criminal,conduct or the plaintiff consented to the abortion. The abortionist is subject to felony charges.

I write in support of this Act, which passed by overwhelming majorities in both the House and the Senate. A very similar act was also supported by large majorities in both houses of the United States Congress. The ban has received widespread backing from pro-life and pro-choice advocates alike. While I am pro-choice, I agree that outlawing this particular abortion procedure is sound public policy. In my opinion, the ban makes illegal a procedure which is close to infanticide and is consistent both with constitutional dictates and protection of the physician/patient relationship.

I. Is the Act Constitutional?

A year ago I signed into law a ban on physician-assisted suicide, believing that the ban was constitutional despite contrary holdings by two United States Courts of Appeals. Last week a unanimous United States Supreme Court agreed that that law was in fact constitutional. I expect this ban likewise to survive ultimate constitutional challenge.

In Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), the United States Supreme Court recognized a women's right to an abortion. Almost twenty years later, in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 112 S. Ct. 2791 (1992), the Court held pre-viability abortion regulations to be constitutional so long as they do not impose an "undue burden" on a woman's right to an abortion. Post-viability regulation may actually proscribe abortion entirely so long as the life or health of the mother is not thereby placed in jeopardy. Casey, 112 S. Ct. at 2821.

Without getting into a derailed constitutional analysis here, suffice it to say that the Supreme Court has never held that outlawing a particular type of rarely-used abortion procedure violates the Constitution when others remain available. Moreover.^he banned procedure is largely, if not exclusively, used after a fetus is viable, when state-regulation is most permissible. Opponents contend that the Act must nonetheless fail constitutional scrutiny because it does not allow for a legal partial-birth abortion if necessary to preserve the health of the mother. The partial-birth abortion procedure, however, is not recognized in any standard medical text, has never been subject to supervised study or peer review, and was only first acknowledged in a paper in 1992. Our state Department of Health, which keeps records of abortions performed in the state, is unable to cite a single instance of the procedure being performed in Rhode Island. The Act itself provides that the procedure may be used if necessary to save the life of the mother. There is no scientific evidence that a partial-birth abortion is ever necessary to preserve a mother's health. In connection with congressional hearings on the federal partial-birth abortion ban, the Congressional Research Service reported that "[l]ittle information, if any, has been published in the medical literature on the [partial-birth] procedure..."

I expect that the United States Supreme Court will ultimately hold that legislation banning partial-birth abortions is constitutional.

II. Does the Ban Interfere with the Patient/Physician Relationship?

The American Medical Association supports the federal Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 1997, as amended, the legislation upon which 97-H-5159 Substitute A, As Amended, is predicated and closely fashioned. Although the AMA's approval of the federal ban was based in part on a peer review provision included in that statute, the organization's general opposition to partial-birth abortion applies equally here.

The AMA supports the federal ban on the grounds that partial-birth abortion "is ethically wrong," and "leaders of the profession, like former Surgeon General, C. Everett Koop and medical ethicist Edmund Pellegrino oppose use of the procedure, as do most physicians and most members of the public." Although the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) disagrees with the AMA's support, the AMA convened an "expert panel, which included an ACOG representative," which panel "could not find "any" identified circumstance where [the outlawed method] was "the only appropriate alternative."' Finally, the AMA does not believe that a ban on partial-birth abortion intrudes upon a legitimate patient/physician relationship because "it is not an accepted "medical practice."' AMA Board of Trustees Fact Sheet on HR 1122, June 1997.

Other well-respected physicians and medical groups have testified in favor of a ban to the effect that a partial-binh abortion is never necessary to preserve a woman's life, health, or future fertility. In fact, many believe that a partial-birth abortion may irself pose a significant risk to a woman's health. The American Medical Society concluded that the partial birth abortion procedure "is not good medicine." Bad medicine is never in a patient's best interests and certainly is within the legislature's province to outlaw.

For the foregoing reasons, I sign this bill into law.


Lincoln Almond