Anti-Abortion-Funding Constitutional Amendment Ballot Question Gets Go-Ahead From Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office

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The Massachusetts Attorney General’s office has certified a petition seeking to add an amendment to the state constitution that would enable the state to stop using public funds for abortion.

It’s the second step on a long road that could lead to the end of state funding for abortion.

But first, supporters have to get and submit signatures of at least 80,239 registered voters in Massachusetts by December 4, 2019.

If they do, supporters then need to get at least 50 of the 200 Massachusetts state legislators to vote to put the measure on the ballot during both the 2019-2020 legislative session and the 2021-2022 legislative session.

If that happens, the measure would go to the state general election ballot in November 2022 for an up-or-down vote.

“The Attorney General today certified the petition. Massachusetts taxpayers now have a chance to be heard on whether they think their tax dollars should be used to destroy the smallest and most helpless members of the human family,” said Thomas Harvey, chairman of the Massachusetts Alliance To Stop Taxpayer Funded Abortion, which is sponsoring the petition in a written statement Wednesday, September 4.

A spokesman for an organization that supports keeping abortion publicly funded by the state government could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.

If approved, the proposed constitutional amendment wouldn’t make abortion illegal and wouldn’t stop state funds from going toward it. But it would allow the state Legislature or the state’s voters through a subsequent ballot question to end state funding for abortion.

In 1981, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the Massachusetts Constitution requires the state government to pay for abortions for poor women with public funds, overturning a state statute of the time known as the Flynn-Doyle Bill.

The first step in getting the constitutional amendment on the ballot was submitting a petition with at least 10 signatures on it to the Attorney General’s office by the August 7 deadline.

The approval by the Attorney General’s office is an official finding that the signatures are valid and that the proposed amendment is allowable under the Massachusetts Constitution, which in Article 48 excludes certain areas from statewide referendums, such as freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and trial by jury.

The Attorney General’s decision can be appealed to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

In 2017 Harvey and his allies got this far in the process but came up short in gathering signatures to get the measure on the November 2020 state general election ballot. Harvey is confident the current signature-gathering campaign will succeed, in part because it started earlier in the cycle and is more organized.

The proposed constitutional amendment consists of just 10 words:  “Nothing in this constitution requires the public funding of abortion.”

The official summary of the proposed constitutional amendment by the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office is 16 words:  “This proposed constitutional amendment would permit the state to exclude abortion services from state-funded health care.”