Majority of Massachusetts Voters Oppose Expanding Late-Term Abortions, New Poll Finds

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About 62 percent of registered voters in Massachusetts oppose allowing more late-term abortions, according to a poll released today by opponents of the proposed ROE Act abortion expansion bill.

The poll also found that about 62 percent support parental consent for abortion, and 74 percent support requiring abortions at 24 weeks or later to be performed in a hospital.

Current state policy on all three would change by the so-called ROE Act, which would loosen restrictions on abortions after 24 weeks and remove a law requiring girls 17 and younger to get permission from a parent or a judge to get an abortion. It would also allow late-term abortions to take place at a clinic instead of at a hospital.

The bill is currently before the Massachusetts Legislature.

The new poll did not include a question about a current requirement in state law that babies born alive after an attempted abortion be given life-saving care. The ROE Act bill would remove that requirement, which has led opponents to call it an infanticide bill.

“The so-called ROE Act would enable underage girls to get late-term abortions without their parents ever even knowing and allow abortionists to deny emergency care to full term babies. We can now say with confidence that the voters of our Commonwealth reject this abortion extremism.  The legislature should as well,” said Andrew Beckwith, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, in an email message.

Several supporters of the ROE Act bill contacted by New Boston Post around midday Wednesday, June 5 could not immediately be reached for comment. (Editor’s Note:  This story will be updated or superseded if supporters of the bill provide comment.)

The poll was produced by The Tarrance Group, of Alexandria, Virginia, for Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion organization.

Several organizations opposing the ROE Act bill gathered for a rally at the Massachusetts State House in Boston on Wednesday morning, culminating in a press conference releasing the poll results, according to organizers. They included Massachusetts Family Institute, Renew Massachusetts Coalition, Massachusetts Citizens for Life, and the Pro-Life Legal Defense Fund.

“Massachusetts voters understand that our parental consent laws are designed to protect our young girls from exploitation, and to ensure their health and safety. They also know that the Roe Act is outside the mainstream, particularly in its expansion of late term abortion. It should be rejected by the legislature,” said Chanel Prunier, executive director of the Renew Massachusetts Coalition, in a written statement.

Sue Swayze Liebel, state policy director for Susan B. Anthony List, put the new poll in the context of recent developments on abortion in various state legislatures, including a bill that broadened access to late-term abortions in New York and a comparable bill that failed in Virginia.

“It is clearer than ever that Roe v. Wade is far from being settled law in the hearts and minds of the American people, and this is increasingly reflected in state legislatures. Across the nation there is growing momentum, informed by science and compassion, to reject the abortion extremism on display in New York and Virginia, and in Massachusetts’s Roe Act,” Liebel said in a written statement.

The new poll is based on telephone interviews of 500 Massachusetts registered voters between April 29 and May 2. The pollster claims a margin of error of plus-or-minus 4.5 percent in 95 out of 100 cases.

Respondents skewed Democratic and liberal, which reflects the state’s makeup. Sixty percent of respondents called themselves pro-choice on abortion, while 40 percent said they are pro-life. But 44 percent of those calling themselves pro-choice also said they oppose allowing more late-term abortions, according to the poll.

The poll did not include questions about public funding for abortion. The ROE Act bill would expand state funding for abortion for women who aren’t poor enough to qualify for the state’s Medicaid program (known as MassHealth) but who also don’t have private health insurance that covers abortion.

The new poll conflicts in part with a poll released in October 2018 by MassINC Polling Group for NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, which supports the ROE Act bill. That poll found broad support for legal abortion in Massachusetts but asked significantly different questions.

According to October 2018 poll, 78 percent of voters support a state law keeping abortion legal and 76 percent support allowing abortions after 24 weeks in cases where the mother’s health is in danger or the fetus has a grave anomaly.

The October 2018 poll found that 47 percent said abortion should be legal in almost all cases and 36 percent said it should be legal in most cases. It also found 74 percent support requiring all health insurers in the state to cover abortion, and 77 percent support having the state pay for abortions for poor women.

A summary of the October 2018 poll produced by MassINC Polling Group does not report a question about parental consent.

Supporters of the ROE Act bill say most remaining restrictions on abortion should be removed because they maintain abortion is a fundamental right and that abortions should be easier to get for teen-agers, poor women, and women whose late-term fetuses are found to have a grave abnormality that may result in disability or death.

Opponents say abortion is virtually unrestricted in Massachusetts now, which they lament, and that the ROE Act bill would take a bad situation and make it worse by lessening parental involvement in pregnant teen-agers’ lives, removing protection for babies born alive after an attempted abortion, and no longer requiring that riskier late-term abortions take place in a hospital.

Governor Charlie Baker, a Republican who generally supports legal abortion, expressed opposition to expanding access to late-term abortions in April.

The “ROE” in ROE Act stands for Remove Obstacles and Expand Abortion Access, and it also refers to the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion nationwide, which some state legislatures are challenging by passing laws that prohibit or significantly restrict abortion.

The bill, Massachusetts Senate Bill 1209, earlier today was referred to the Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on the Judiciary. No hearing date has been announced.