Pro-Life Activists Demand Meeting With Gov. Baker, You’ll Never Guess What Happened
By Evan Lips | March 8, 2017, 17:15 EST
BOSTON — More than 100 pro-life activists looked to confront Governor Charlie Baker following his Wednesday morning press conference to ask about his promise to reimburse the state’s Planned Parenthood clinics should federal dollars be siphoned away from the abortion provider.
In the end, however, the crowd had to settle for leaving their stack of petitions with Baker’s constituent services director, after Baker elected to use a different door to exit the press room at the State House.
“We’ve given your letters to the governor’s staff, we’ve included all of the tough questions you guys have asked him on this issue,” Andrew Beckwith, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, told the crowd of activists that had assembled outside Baker’s office. “He’s in a meeting right now, but the media saw that you’re here and that story is now going to get out.”
Earlier Wednesday morning, Baker presided over a press conference in which he introduced his administration’s new clean-water-related legislation. A crowd of activists waited outside the press gallery’s media exit, hoping to confront the Swampscott Republican regarding his vocal support for Planned Parenthood, but Baker exited via a different door.
“He avoided us — is he going to talk to us or is he just going to ignore us?” JoAnne Chisholm, of Gloucester, told the New Boston Post as she waited outside Baker’s office. “He should know we’re growing — I see it up on the North Shore — it’s actually experiencing pockets of revival.”
Baker last week promised that the annual flow of roughly $2 million in federal dollars, which are distributed to the state’s five Planned Parenthood clinics, would be reimbursed by state taxpayers should the Republican-led Congress erase the federal subsidy as part of the planned overhaul of former president Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
The overall annual budget for Planned Parenthood of Massachusetts sits at about $21.5 million.
The organization has cited the federal law banning the use of federal taxpayer dollars to fund abortions, but pro-life advocates like state Representative Jim Lyons (R-Andover) have pointed to a 1981 state Supreme Judicial Court ruling declaring that citizens have a right to state-funded abortions.
“In Massachusetts, unfortunately, our tax dollars actually do pay for abortions,” Lyons said during an earlier gathering Wednesday, in which he addressed participants of the “pro-family lobby day” sponsored by the Massachusetts Family Institute, the Renew Massachusetts Coalition, and KeepMASafe.org, the movement to overturn the so-called “bathroom bill” law. “In order for us to overcome that problem in Massachusetts we have to change the [state] constitution.”
Wednesday morning’s meeting was part of a larger agenda, which included talks regarding efforts to repeal the “bathroom bill” law at the ballot in November 2018 and the introduction of this year’s new signature-gathering drive aimed at asking voters in 2020 whether to halt the state taxpayer funding of abortions.
“We can stop the taxpayer funding of abortions here in Massachusetts by first of all getting people to recognize that this is what Planned Parenthood does,” Lyons said. “Do people really think we should be using our tax dollars to fund the destruction of human life?”
State Representative Keiko Orrall (R-Lakeville) also addressed attendees and reminded them that their lobbying should not be combative in nature.
“We have a different point of view, but we absolutely have to show love, kindness, and respect,” Orrall said at one point.
Former Republican State Committeewoman Chanel Prunier, who is also currently helping spearhead the Renew Massachusetts Coalition, said it will be easier to sway Massachusetts voters to vote to defund Planned Parenthood after Congress votes to strip it of federal dollars.
“People are going to realize, ‘wow, the world did not end without taxpayer-funded abortions,’ and people in Massachusetts will then have the opportunity to do that here as well,” Prunier said.
Beckwith later challenged the argument that stripping Planned Parenthood of Massachusetts of access to taxpayer dollars would negatively affect women who frequent clinics for health reasons other than abortions.
“There are 270 other federally-qualified health centers across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” Beckwith noted. “It should be a no-brainer, and Governor Baker has worked in the health care industry, so he knows.”
State Senator Ryan Fattman (R-Webster) also addressed activists and later said he was impressed by the turnout.
“There’s a lot of people who are underrepresented inside this building,” Fattman said. “Their opinions matter, they’re valid, and it’s exciting to see so many people knocking on the doors and making sure that the alternative side is spoken for.”
Baker’s office has stuck to its previous statements on the matter, however.
“Governor Baker is a strong supporter of women’s health and believes the commonwealth has a responsibility to ensure access to the important health care services offered by Planned Parenthood in all courts of our state,” Lizzy Guyton, a spokesman for Baker, told New Boston Post in an emailed statement. “The administration is prepared to fund these services should the federal government pursue changes that would block care for women and families here in Massachusetts.”