Is ROE Act Infanticide? Pointed Exchange During Marathon Hearing on Massachusetts Abortion Bill

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Editor’s Note:  The following is a transcript of an exchange about whether the proposed ROE Act abortion expansion bill in the Massachusetts Legislature would legalize infanticide. The discussion took place Monday, June 17 during a hearing before the Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on the Judiciary.

The speakers are state Representative Sheila Harrington (R-Groton), a practicing lawyer, and two supporters of the ROE Act bill, Dr. Carole Allen, a retired pediatrician who is vice president of the Massachusetts Medical Society, and Dr. Luu Ireland, an obstetrician-gynecologist at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester and a board member of the Massachusetts section of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

The ROE Act bill would, among other things, eliminate a current requirement in state law that girls 17 and younger get permission from a parent or from a superior court judge in order to get an abortion. It would also eliminate a requirement that a doctor try to save the life of a baby born alive after an attempted abortion.

Harrington had just asked the doctors about the parental consent requirement before moving to a different topic. Here below is what all three speakers said from that point on, in full:

Sheila Harrington:  I’m curious, too, with regard to your positioning. You’re representing the Massachusetts Medical Society here?

Dr. Carole Allen:  I am.

Sheila Harrington:  You are. O.K.. I’m curious as to the reasoning why Massachusetts Medical Society is supporting the removal of Section 12P, with regard to the fact that if a baby, despite the abortion, is born alive, you presently give medical treatment to that baby – all resources available. And that is being taken out in the ROE Act. And that is something the Mass. Medical is very comfortable with?

Dr. Carole Allen:  I’m sorry, I’m not familiar with that particular section that you’re reading into.

[audible groans from the audience]

Sheila Harrington:  O.K., so Section 12P is the section in our existing law –

Dr. Carole Allen:  Yes

Sheila Harrington:  And under that existing law, it says that they are to:  “in keeping with good medical practice, consistent with the procedure being used, to preserve the life and health of the aborted child. Such steps shall include the presence of life-supporting equipment, as defined by the department of public health, in the room where the abortion is … performed.” You don’t agree with that?

Dr. Carole Allen:  We agree – we would like to see the terminology brought into modern lexicon. And, ah, I don’t believe modern terminology would talk about an aborted child – it’s a fetus.

Sheila Harrington:  Well, no, ah, ah, ma’am. It’s actually being taken out of our existing law.

Dr. Carole Allen:  Correct.

Sheila Harrington:  That is our existing law. And I’m just asking you if Mass. Medical Society believes that’s a good idea.

Dr. Luu Ireland:  So this is, this part that is taken out is not preventing life-saving treatment from being done to a newborn. What this does is it allows the, the next steps in medical care to be made between a physician and the patient that they’re taking care of.

Sheila Harrington:  Where does it say that?

Dr. Luu Ireland:  So if they determine that life-saving medical treatment is needed, they have full capacity to do that. But if it is a, a-a-a, a newborn that has a lethal fetal anomaly, they also have the option of providing comfort care, or palliative care.

Sheila Harrington:  Where does it say that?

Dr. Luu Ireland:  It doesn’t say –

Sheila Harrington:  It doesn’t.

Dr. Luu Ireland:  It’s taking out the section so that physicians have the ability to use their medical expertise and ethical obligations to provide the appropriate treatment.

Sheila Harrington:  But it doesn’t say that in the ROE Act. No.

Dr. Luu Ireland:  The goal is to take out language that ties the hands of physicians and makes medical decisions for the physician.

Sheila Harrington:  So you’re saying that you don’t want to — if the baby is born alive, you don’t want to be forced into doing what you have, what you could to keep it alive.

Dr. Luu Ireland:  So first of all I’ve never been in that situation. I don’t think that that actually happens in medical care.

Sheila Harrington:  Oh, I think it happens. I think it happens.

Ahm, thank you. Thank you for your testimony.