RI politicians shouldn’t be able to stroll past protecting the butchers of children.

Among the most effective — which is to say, “diabolical” — techniques for advancing radicalism that I’ve observed in my years of reading state-level legislation is to float vaguely between what a bill does in specific and what it does in reality.  I have in mind the “Healthcare Provider Shield Bill” that the Rhode Island General Assembly and Governor Daniel McKee passed into law this session (H7577A in the House and S2262B in the Senate).  Not long ago, I suspect, this bill would have tripped over its own extremism, but our politicians and news media are so ideologically conquered that none will bother to explain it sufficiently to allow Rhode Islanders to decide for themselves.

Part of the problem is that it’s nearly 20 pages of thick legalism.  The reader must be accustomed to reading such things to untangle the ways in which ideological politics is interwoven even with the language.  For instance, the “providers” whom it “shields” are defined as “aggrieved person[s]” who have “aid[ed] and assist[ed] legally protected healthcare activity.”  To appreciate how this functions as activism, read the definition of the latter term (“legally protected healthcare activity”):

The undertaking of any act or omission to aid or effectuate, or attempt to aid or effectuate, any person in the exercise and enjoyment, or attempted exercise and enjoyment, of the right to transgender healthcare services or reproductive healthcare services in this state, regardless of the patient’s location or whether the healthcare provider is licensed in the state where the patient is located at the time the service is rendered; or

The undertaking of any act or omission to aid or effectuate, or attempt to aid or effectuate, any person in the provision of, or attempted provision of, transgender healthcare services 19
or reproductive healthcare services in this state, regardless of the patient’s location or whether the healthcare provider is licensed in the state where the patient is located at the time the service is rendered.

What advocates claim the “shield bill” does, in specific, is to protect Rhode Island healthcare providers who provide services that, whether you like them or not, are legal within the state.  The supposed protection is ostensibly from victimization by some crazy MAGA state that passes legislation allowing its citizens to harass and persecute those Rhode Island providers.

I try to resist falling into the literary analysis for which I was trained at such great expense, but in this case, it’s unavoidable.  Let’s begin with the deceptive use of the term “aggrieved person.”  In general law, as Black’s Law Dictionary makes explicit, “aggrieved” means “having suffered loss or injury.”  Ordinarily, one might expect the fact of being aggrieved to be a matter to be proven elsewhere.  In this bill, however, it’s simply a propagandistic term to imply innocence on the person’s part and the guilt of the other party.  An “aggrieved person” is simply “a person against whom hostile litigation is filed.”

That sounds bad, doesn’t it?  We all know what “hostile” means.  But again, in this bill, it’s more a term of art:  “hostile litigation” is simply “litigation or other legal action, including, but not limited to, administrative action, to deter, prevent, sanction, or punish any person engaging in legally protected healthcare activity.”  Let’s suppose Connecticut decides that a 12-year-old girl who begins claiming she’s a boy must have a minimum of two psychological evaluations over the course of six months (I’m setting a deliberately low bar, here) and parental consent before butchers can sterilize her and then filet her thigh for material to craft something that looks like a stuffed-animal phallus with her own flesh, while Rhode Island determines that a 15-minute one-on-one consultation with a radical activist is sufficient.  If some agency in Connecticut were to disallow the Rhode Island activist from working in that state in order to lure girls across the border, that would be “hostile litigation.”

Now suppose a girl who is lured across state lines then, after turning 13, realizes that she was merely going through a horrible phase and is experiencing all sorts of physical and psychological side effects for which the Rhode Island butchers did not adequately inform or prepare her.  If her family tries to sue the butcher, that, too, would be “hostile litigation,” and the butcher would be an “aggrieved person.”

You can see how diabolical the technique is.  We’re barely a page into the legalisms, and we already have multiple definitions and hypotheticals in which activists could tangle anybody who objects by spouting nuances and lies about what is or isn’t covered.  The truth is that they don’t really know or care what’s covered.  Invariably, they’ll insist on their own intent as justification while ignoring the true purpose of the bill, which is to intimidate anybody who doesn’t favor butchering children by placing all sorts of risk on them.  They’ll cite the brief disclaimer that providers are not made immune to malpractice under Rhode Island law, but their victims will face huge expense and anxiety when seeking justice for anything but the most undeniable butchery.

It’s not only the victims who face such risks.  The legislation absolutely forbids business entities incorporating in Rhode Island from providing any “records, information, facilities, or assistance” in response to a “subpoena, warrant, court order, or other civil or criminal legal process” related to “hostile litigation.”  Imagine a small-business owner in Rhode Island who wants to help the Connecticut girl described above by agreeing to confirm in a deposition or affidavit that she was in the state on a particular date.  He or she would be breaking the law to voluntarily comply.  The penalty isn’t stated, but one presumes losing the ability to remain a registered business is in the mix.  What business would be willing to risk that?

This goes well beyond legal protection for Rhode Island providers adhering to state law.  It creates restrictions and risks for other Rhode Islanders because they are less favored.  On a similar theme, note that the bill specifically excludes “conversion therapy” from the definition of “gender-affirming health care services.”  As I predicted when the General Assembly and then-Governor Gina Raimondo banned conversion therapy in the state in 2017 (see here and here), RI Democrats’ respect for the rights of people to define their identities, and to seek or provide professional help along those lines, goes only one way.  Any providers who try to help minors deal with unwanted feelings of same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria risks censure and loss of license.

Rhode Island law is enforcing a radical religion, not respecting professionals’ expertise and patients’ rights.

That is the doing of Governor Daniel McKee of Cumberland, who wants to restrict the rights of children and families in order to protect butchers.  It is the doing of House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi of Warwick, who wants to restrict the rights of children and families in order to protect butchers.  It is the doing of Senate President Dominick Ruggerio of North Providence, who wants to restrict the rights of children and families in order to protect butchers.  It is the doing of House sponsor John Edwards of Tiverton, who wants to restrict the rights of children and families in order to protect butchers.  It is the doing of Senate sponsor Dawn Euer of Newport, who wants to restrict the rights of children and families in order to protect butchers.  And it is the doing of the following legislators who voted for the bill:

  • House: Shekarchi, Abney, Ackerman, Ajello, Alzate, Batista, Bennett, Biah, Blazejewski, Boylan, Caldwell, Carson, Casey, Casimiro, Cortvriend, Cotter, Craven, Cruz, Dawson, DeSimone, Donovan, Edwards, Felix, Finkelman, Fogarty, Giraldo, Handy, Henries, Kazarian, Kislak, Knight, Lombardi, Marszalkowski, McEntee, McGaw, McNamara, Messier, Morales, O’Brien, Potter, Sanchez, Shallcross Smith, Shanley, Slater, Solomon, Speakman, Spears, Stewart, Tanzi, Voas.
  • Senate: Ruggerio, Acosta, Bell, Bissaillon, Britto, Burke, Cano, Ciccone, DiMario, DiPalma, Euer, Felag, Gallo, Gu, Kallman, LaMountain, Lauria, Lawson, Lombardi, Mack, McKenney, Miller, Murray, Pearson, Quezada, Sosnowski, Tikoian, Ujifusa, Valverde, and Zurier.

Add to the list those individuals and organizations who submitted testimony in favor of the legislation, including (shamefully) RI Kids Count and Attorney General Peter Neronha, whose meager letter doesn’t find space to mention even one concern about legalities or rights.

Shame on you all.

 

Featured image by Justin Katz using Dall-E 40.

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