GOP Challenger Calls Ed Markey ‘Extremist’ on Abortion After Senator Praises ROE Act Bill

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U.S. Senator Ed Markey reiterated his support for the proposed ROE Act bill on Beacon Hill, saying Massachusetts “has to be the leader” on solidifying and expanding access to abortion.

Republican challenger Kevin O’Connor called Markey “an extremist” on abortion who advocates for what he called “terrible” things.

Markey, a Democrat, spoke highly of the bill during a debate with Republican challenger Kevin O’Connor, a lawyer from Dover, on Monday night. He did not get into the details of it.

The ROE Act bill, which has stalled in the Massachusetts Legislature since being introduced in January 2019, would remove most remaining limitations on abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy. It would remove a current requirement in state law that abortions after 24 weeks take place in a hospital. It would also eliminate a current requirement that girls 17 and younger get permission from a parent or a judge in order to have an abortion.

The bill would also remove a current requirement that doctors attempt to save the life of a baby born alive after an attempted abortion. It would also expand public funding of abortion to include some women who aren’t poor enough to qualify for Medicaid.

Margery Eagan, who co-hosted the debate on WGBH on Monday, October 5 with her radio partner Jim Braude, asked Markey about the ROE Act bill. A transcript of the exchange, and O’Connor’s response, follows:


Margery Eagan:  But I just want to ask Senator Markey:  Do you support the ROE Act?  It’s, ah, up on — You do support the ROE Act. It’s pending on Beacon Hill. It would take, limit restrictions on abortions post-24 weeks. And some people have called this infanticide. But I know you support it. So explain why.


Ed Markey:  Well, I support the ROE Act because I think Massachusetts – we’re only 2 percent of America’s population, but we have to be the leader in ensuring that we are going to put on the books the protections for women, so that the only decision is between a woman and her physician, in terms of any health care decision which she would make. That’s should be the way in which we deal with that issue. We have to be the leader.

So, from my perspective, yes, what the Republicans are doing is engaging in court-packing. They’ve picked up two extra justices, and their goal now is to repeal Roe versus Wade.

As Jim said, President Trump made it very clear, repeatedly, that he’s going to name justices to the Supreme Court who will overturn Roe versus Wade. That’s his goal. He’s made it very clear.


Please let me finish.


Jim Braude:  Quickly, please, Senator.


Ed Markey:  I will.

And he has made it very, very clear, over and over again, that’s his goal.

And by the way, what will come after that is the Affordable Care Act, environmental protections. But at the top of the list is this repeal of Roe versus Wade. And I think Massachusetts has to be the leader in passing state statutes to protect women.



Jim Braude:  We’re going to get to health care and the environment in a second. Mr. O’Connor, you want to respond to what the senator just said?


Kevin O’Connor:  Yes, Senator Markey is within the most extreme group in terms of advocating abortion rights even at the point of delivery – ninth month, right there. It’s terrible the things that he’s advocated for. He’s an extremist. And his views are not consistent with the majority of Massachusetts voters.


O’Connor has told New Boston Post that he supports legal abortion, calling Roe v. Wade “settled law,” but that he opposes late-term abortions and federal public funding for abortion.

Markey when he first ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1976 supported an amendment to the federal constitution that would ban abortion, but has since become an ardent supporter of legal abortion. On August 15, 2019, he appeared at the Boston office of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts to accept the group’s early endorsement, and during the event he formally endorsed the ROE Act bill.