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2011 Legislative Highlights

In 2011, RI NOW advocated for and against a myriad of bills that would affect women’s rights and health. See below for our legislative highlights.

RI Works

RI NOW lobbied in support of an amendment to the RI Works program that adjusts the work requirement to enable single parents in the program to participate in job-training, education programs, and other work-readiness activities to increase their employability. This amendment to the program, which was included in the budget bill, will go a long way in helping women to achieve economic self-sufficiency. RI NOW applauds Representative Cimini for her leadership on this issue.

Marriage Equality

2011 was a disappointing year for Marriage Equality in Rhode Island. Speaker Gordon Fox declared Marriage Equality dead during the 2011 legislative session, and pushed for civil union legislation instead. A last-minute amendment on the house floor was passed to include a very damaging religious exemption, which would essentially allow religious institutions, and their affiliates, to discriminate with impunity. RI NOW will continue to work with Marriage Equality Rhode Island (MERI) to achieve full marriage equality in this state and to undo the deleterious effects of the civil union legislation.

Reproductive Health and Justice

In 2011, RI NOW successfully continued the fight against numerous anti-choice bills that would chip away at a woman’s full reproductive rights. In addition, RI NOW lobbied against efforts to hijack the health insurance exchange bill by including abortion language that would effectively prevent abortion coverage through the exchange. Fortunately, the bill as amended died in the General Assembly and the Governor has since issued an executive order to create the health care exchange – without the damaging anti-abortion language. RI NOW anticipates that the fight is not over on this issue, and we will remain vigilant during the 2012 session.

RI NOW celebrated the passage of the Healthy Pregnancies for Incarcerated Women Act, which was signed into law by Governor Chafee. This law will provide restrictions on the physical restraint of pregnant prisoners. This has been a high priority bill for RI NOW, and we are very pleased to have helped to ensure its passage.

Violence Against Women

RI NOW advocated in support of the successful Cyberstalking Bill. This new law allows the crimes of cyberstalking and cyberharrassment to be prosecuted as domestic violence offenses, thus ensuring that abusers will be held accountable for their online actions. RI NOW also supported the Anti-Strangulation Bill that would make strangulation or choking a felony. Research has shown that a victim of domestic violence who has been strangled or choked at some point in their relationship is nine times more likely to be murdered. Unfortunately, the General Assembly came to a close before the house and senate versions could be reconciled. This bill will be a top priority for next year.

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