Public Funding of Abortion To Remain In Massachusetts

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No referendum asking voters to allow the state government to stop paying for abortions will appear on the statewide ballot in 2020, because pro-life advocates didn’t gather enough signatures.

Supporters of the measure fell more than 7,000 short of the 64,750 they needed, said Thomas Harvey, executive director of Alliance To Stop Taxpayer Funding of Abortion.

They had hoped to put a ballot question before voters to try to overturn a 1981 Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling requiring the state to use public money to pay for abortions for poor women.

The proposed amendment states:  “Nothing in this constitution requires the public funding of abortion.”

The measure wouldn’t stop public funding of abortion in Massachusetts, but it would allow the state Legislature or voters in a subsequent referendum to stop funding it.

Harvey said pro-lifers will try again in a couple of years.

“We are seeking to end taxpayer funded abortions, but our ultimate goal is to save the lives of unborn babies. And that issue is too important for us to give up the fight. Accordingly, with your valuable assistance, we intend to begin another signature campaign in the fall of 2019,” Harvey said in a written statement.

Signature gathering got off to a rocky start earlier this year when the four Roman Catholic diocesan bishops announced June 1 a new policy banning signature gathering for political matters on church property.

Pro-lifers pushed back, and in late October two of the bishops reversed course and allowed signature gathering at the discretion of pastors. Cardinal Sean O’Malley, archbishop of Boston, and Bishop Robert McManus, bishop of Worcester, opted to allow gathering of signatures. Those two dioceses cover about 73 percent of the population of the state.

(Bishop Edgar da Cunha, bishop of Fall River, which includes southeastern Massachusetts and Cape Cod, and Bishop Mitchell Rozanski, bishop of Springfield, kept the signature-collecting ban in place.)

The Boston and Worcester bishops’ reversal left about three and a half weeks to meet the November 22 deadline for turning in signatures to town and city clerks.

It was a big deal to supporters of the measure. Harvey said in one weekend supporters collected about 1,000 signatures at Catholic churches in Quincy alone.

Supporters of the measure had until 5 p.m. this afternoon, Wednesday, December 6, to collect signatures from local clerks and turn them in to the Massachusetts Secretary of State’s office in Boston. But Harvey said it became clear before the deadline that the effort fell short.

In all, activists collected 57,396 signatures, Harvey said. That’s 7,354 fewer than needed.

If supporters of the measure succeed in a couple of years, a proposed constitutional amendment could go to Massachusetts voters in November 2022.