Abortion Expansion Bill To Come To Floor of Massachusetts Legislature, Beacon Hill Leaders Say

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2020/11/03/abortion-expansion-bill-to-come-to-floor-of-massachusetts-legislature-beacon-hill-leaders-say/

Leaders in the Massachusetts House and Senate plan to bring abortion expansion legislation to the floor during the lame-duck session that starts Wednesday, but they aren’t saying whether that means the proposed ROE Act abortion expansion bill.

The ROE Act bill has languished in committee for more than a year, amid a lukewarm response from House Speaker Robert DeLeo and opposition from Governor Charlie Baker. Earlier this year it seemed dead for the current legislative 2019-2020 legislative session, because there was no movement on it ahead of the ordinary deadline for formal sessions of the state Legislature, which is July 31.

But state legislative leaders decided in late July to extend formal sessions beyond the original deadline because of coronavirus-related delays, which enabled bills that appeared dormant to become viable again.

One example is the abortion bill. DeLeo and Senate President Karen Spilka released a statement Monday expressing commitment to holding a debate on an abortion bill on the floor of each chamber.

“We are very concerned that Massachusetts’ women’s reproductive rights are under threat at the national level,” DeLeo and Spilka said in a joint statement Monday, November 2, according to State House News Service. “We are therefore committed to debate measures in the House and Senate this session that would remove barriers to women’s reproductive health options and protect the concepts enshrined in Roe v. Wade.”

The ROE Act bill would remove an existing requirement in state law that doctors try to save the life of a baby who survives an abortion. It would also eliminate a requirement that girls 17 and younger get permission from a parent or a judge to get an abortion.

The bill would remove most remaining restrictions on abortion after 24 weeks and would expand public funding of abortion to include not just poor women who qualify for Medicaid (as now) but also some women whose incomes are too high to qualify for Medicaid.

Supporters of the bill say it would make it easier for women carrying a fetus with a fatal condition to get a late-term abortion in Massachusetts, which they argue is compassionate. They also say that girls 17 and younger should not have to get permission from a parent or a judge to get an abortion, and that public funding for abortion should be more widely available.

Opponents of the bill say it would legalize infanticide by allowing doctors to let a newly born baby die after an attempted abortion. They also argue that girls 17 and younger ought to inform someone in authority when seeking an abortion, both to underscore the seriousness of the decision and to alert authorities to potential sexual abuse.

Supporters of abortion have been stumping hard for the ROE Act bill during recent weeks, using the nomination and confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court to bolster their case. They maintain that the U.S. Supreme Court may overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 court decision that legalized abortion nationwide, and that Massachusetts should increase its protections and accommodations for abortion.

Opponents of abortion and the ROE ACT bill question the impetus for such legislation, noting that current state statutes protect the legal status of abortion and that the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in 1981 ruled that abortion is a fundamental right under the state constitution.