Cardinal Sean O’Malley Issues Statement Opposing ROE Act Abortion Expansion Bill

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The U.S. Senate may confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court at some point this fall, and some Massachusetts politicians are pointing to it as a reason to expand abortion access in the state. 

Democratic politicians like U.S. Senator Ed Markey, U.S. Representative Ayanna Pressley, and Boston mayor Marty Walsh, and left-wing groups like Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union, and SEIU Local 509, are among the many who have said that Massachusetts should pass the ROE Act bill in response to President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nomination. 

However, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston, disagrees with their logic. O’Malley put out a statement late last week opposing the ROE Act.

The ROE Act bill is an abortion expansion proposal that would eliminate most restrictions on third-trimester abortions, remove the current requirement that that third-term abortions take place at a hospital, eliminate parental consent laws for minors getting abortions, and get rid of the existing requirement in state law that doctors to provide life-saving care to babies born alive after an attempted abortion.

O’Malley, who like the Catholic Church he serves opposes abortion, has many reservations about the bill.

“The right to life of the unborn is deeply threatened by legislation presently being considered in the Massachusetts legislature,” O’Malley wrote. “The ROE Act is now being debated in the Joint Committee on the Judiciary. Advocates for this bill describe its purpose as protecting the status and legacy of the Roe v. Wade decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973. As a matter of law, Massachusetts already has among the most extreme abortion laws in the county, and if Roe v. Wade were overturned, abortion rights in Massachusetts would be unaffected. Here in Massachusetts, the proponents of the ROE Act describe its objective as increasing access to abortion. Tragically, the bill would do this but in a very extreme manner.”

O’Malley described the ROE Act as “radical,” even by Massachusetts standards. He also said that he could not stay silent on the matter, even though elective abortion has been legal everywhere in the United States since 1973.

“Opposition to the Act is required on moral grounds, indeed on basic human rights grounds,” he wrote.

Although O’Malley opposes the ROE Act bill, he said the opposition has nothing to do with shaming people or singling anyone out. He said people have to acknowledge the reasons why women seek abortion, including the pressures some women feel. He also noted that the Archdiocese of Boston tries to help women, including with Project Rachel, which offers one-day retreats, support groups, and counseling referrals to women who are struggling after having an abortion.

The archdiocese also has a ministry called Pregnancy Help that offers pregnancy testing, limited ultrasound, classes on pregnancy and baby care, referrals, parenting and adoption information, and material assistance free of charge.

O’Malley also laid out some other issues he sees in not only Massachusetts but the country as a whole that he thinks need addressing:  “the COVID-19 pandemic, racial justice, climate change, poverty, and inequality.”

But the major theme of the letter is the ROE Act bill, which he said he hopes the archdiocese can help stop.

“The Church must oppose the ROE Act, and I invite others to consider why we do so,” O’Malley wrote. “We will publicize our objections in the parishes of the Archdiocese, seeking the support of members of our community. 

“We will continue to explain our views to legislators and urge citizens to express their opposition to their representatives and senators,” he added. “We will dialogue with our neighbors who may differ with the Church’s position and will do so with care and civility. In the end, we are simply committed to protecting human life in its most vulnerable condition.”