Even Liberal Massachusetts Has Little Stomach for ROE Act Abortion Bill, New Poll Shows

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2019/06/06/even-liberal-massachusetts-has-little-stomach-for-roe-act-abortion-bill-new-poll-shows/

Abortion is front and center in American politics this year. A number of conservative states, including Georgia, Alabama, and Louisiana, have recently passed laws that would extend legal protection to a significant number of unborn children. Meanwhile, for the first time in many years, there has been concerted effort in many politically liberal states to make their abortion laws even more permissive than they were at the beginning of the year. In January, New York enacted legislation that explicitly legalized abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy. Illinois recently passed a law that, among other things, repeals the state’s ban on partial birth abortion. The governor of Maine is expected to sign legislation that would require the state’s taxpayers to pay for elective abortions through their state Medicaid program.

In Massachusetts, the state House of Representatives and state Senate are considering nearly identical bills known as the ROE Act, which would broaden access to abortion in a state that has only a handful of restrictions to begin with. It would essentially make abortion legal throughout all nine months of pregnancy – even after 24 weeks, as long as it is deemed necessary to protect the unmeasurable mental health of the mother. It would also remove current legal protections for infants who survive abortions; remove the state’s current requirement that abortions after 24 weeks be performed in hospitals; and remove the state’s parental consent law. That means that for the first time since 1981, girls 17 and younger in Massachusetts could obtain abortions without receiving permission from a parent or a judge.

Even though Massachusetts has a well-deserved reputation of being liberal, a new poll that was released on Wednesday by the Tarrance Group finds that many aspects of the ROE Act are unpopular with Massachusetts voters. According to this survey, 62 percent of voters oppose allowing more late-term abortions in Massachusetts. Additionally, 74 percent support the existing law which requires that abortions after 24 weeks gestation be performed in hospitals. Finally, 62 percent of voters support Massachusetts’s pro-life parental involvement law. In particular, the parental involvement law enjoys broad support with 55 percent of Democrats, 52 percent of pro-choice voters, and 60 percent of women all supporting Massachusetts’ current pro-life parental involvement law.

The findings on public attitudes toward the parental involvement law are especially heartening. After the Roe v. Wade decision, Massachusetts was a leader in enacting laws to protect both underage girls and their unborn children. The Massachusetts state legislature actually overrode a gubernatorial veto to enact a parental involvement law in 1974. After several court challenges, an amended law took effect in 1981, making Massachusetts one of the first U.S. states to enforce a pro-life parental involvement law. A 1986 American Journal of Public Health study showed this law reduced the incidence of abortion among Massachusetts minors – both in state and out-of-state.  Additionally, other academic studies show parental involvement laws offer substantial public health benefits, including lowering teen suicide rates and reducing the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases among teen-agers.

The new polling data this week adds to a body of research that shows that incremental pro-life laws enjoy substantial public support – even in politically liberal states. In 2013, the Chiraroscuro Foundation commissioned a poll of New Yorkers that asked questions about a wide range of sanctity of life issues. It found that 78 percent of New Yorkers support a 24-hour waiting period prior to obtaining an abortion and 76 percent support parental notification laws. Eighty percent oppose unlimited abortion through the ninth month of pregnancy. Similarly, a Tarrance Group poll from this May found that 62 percent of Maine voters opposed taxpayer funding of abortion.

However liberal Massachusetts may be, most voters appear to have no appetite for making abortions even easier to get than they are now. Massachusetts legislators who imagine that ending parental consent, encouraging more late-term abortions, and ending protections for born-alive infants are winning issues for them should think again.


Michael J. New is a Visiting Assistant Professor at The Catholic University of America in Washington D.C. and an Associate Scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_J_New.