Few Members of Key Legislative Committee Willing To Comment On Abortion Amendment Passing Massachusetts House

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2020/11/16/few-members-of-key-legislative-committee-willing-to-comment-on-abortion-amendment-passing-massachusetts-house/

The Massachusetts House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a modified version of the ROE Act abortion expansion bill on Thursday evening, but many politicians show no interest in talking about it.

The ROE Act abortion expansion bill was in the Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on the Judiciary from January 22, 2019 through this past week. The committee held a marathon hearing on the bill on June 17, 2019, but never voted on it.

Instead, a modified version of the bill came up this past week as Amendment 759 out of 777 amendments in the state’s fiscal year 2021 budget. The abortion amendment passed 109-49 on Thursday, November 12.

The Judiciary Committee’s House co-chairman, state Representative Claire Cronin (D-Easton), proposed the amendment. Ninety-two Democrats voted yes, along with one Republican (state Representative James Kelcourse of Amesbury) and independent state Representative Susannah Whipps. Kelcourse is a sponsor of the original ROE Act (S.1209/H.3320) as well.

Thirty Republicans voted no, as did 19 Democrats.

New Boston Post contacted all 16 members of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary twice this past week — before the vote and after the vote. As of late this weekend, only three members of the committee have responded. Two others have been quoted by other news outlets.

State Representative Jay Livingstone (D-Norwood), a member of the Judiciary Committee and a sponsor of the ROE Act bill, voted for the abortion amendment. He told New Boston Post by email:  “I’m pleased that the amendment, which includes common sense expansions of reproductive services in Massachusetts, passed overwhelmingly with bipartisan support.”

State Senator William Brownsberger (D-Belmont), a member of the Judiciary Committee, the president pro tempore of the Senate, and a sponsor of of the ROE Act, told New Boston Post by email that he would comment on the bill if and when it comes up in the Senate — as is expected this coming week.

State Representative Alyson Sullivan (R-Abington), also a member of the Judiciary Committee, voted no on the abortion amendment. She emailed New Boston Post a statement Friday voicing concerns on procedure and substance:


Yesterday, contrary to the normal process of legislative initiatives, the Speaker of the  Massachusetts House of Representatives brought before the House, during our budget  deliberations, an amendment, crafted from a bill filed earlier this year called, the Roe Act, after Roe v Wade. The amendment expands abortion rights to include abortions up to moments before natural or medically assisted births, further erodes parental notification for minors seeking  abortions, and eliminates both parental and judicial intervention on behalf of certain minors seeking abortions. House Members were blocked from offering any amendments striking any of  the amendment’s provisions.  

Important and controversial amendments, that have nothing to do with our budget, should not be quickly passed, under darkness, as amendments to our FY 2021 Budget. Important and  controversial issues, such as the Roe Act, should follow the process and be debated as stand-alone bills. The fact of the matter is, the Roe Act was never voted out of committee and yet  several of its provisions found its way to an amendment to our FY 2021 Budget. 

I expressed my concerns and objections with both the provisions of the amendment as well as the  process in which it found itself in our budget debate. 


State Representative Colleen Garry, a pro-life Democrat from Dracut, another member of the Judiciary Committee, also voted against the bill. During floor debate Thursday, she described the abortion amendment as extreme, according to State House News Service.

“If a young girl cannot get married, if she cannot smoke a cigarette, if she can’t drink alcohol, if she can’t vote — I certainly don’t think that she should be able to get a third-trimester abortion without parental or the judicial bypass,” Garry said. “Again, July 2018 we codified Roe v. Wade. This is not protecting Roe v. Wade, this is expanding abortion to the moment of birth and it is just wrong under those circumstances.”

New Boston Post also contacted the 19 Democrats who voted against the abortion amendment. For one, opposing the amendment didn’t come down to whether abortion should be legal or illegal.

State Representative Linda Dean Campbell (D-Methuen) cited other reasons for opposing it, as she explained in a statement emailed to New Boston Post by her legislative director Samantha Donovan:


I support a woman’s right to choose and Roe v. Wade. I had several reasons for voting against the Roe Amendment.

While I do not object to changing the law allowing late-term abortions in cases where fetal abnormalities are likely to result in the death of the fetus, child, or mother, the language was not clearly defined which would open the door for late-term elective abortions of viable fetuses, children.

A parent has legal responsibility for their child until they become eighteen. When a child needs any other type of medical procedure the parent or guardian is responsible for signing off and for the payment of these medical procedures. The bill opens up a whole new set of legal questions in terms of when a child becomes an adult able to legally make decisions for themselves without the input of a responsible parent or guardian.

In the overwhelming majority of cases, I believe we owe a parent or guardian “the opportunity” to have a conversation with their child about one of the most important consequential life-altering events in one’s life. The judicial override is provided to handle the exceptions to this norm, so why are we now addressing the few exceptional cases at the expense of families?


This version of the ROE Act expands legal abortion in Massachusetts after 24 weeks in cases where “an abortion is warranted because of a lethal fetal anomaly incompatible with sustained life outside the uterus.”

Additionally, it would lower the age of girls needing judicial or parental consent for an abortion from 17 and younger to 15 and younger.

It would also eliminate language from existing Massachusetts law that requires a doctor to try to save the life of a baby born alive during an attempted abortion, as current state law requires.

The abortion amendment adds language not in the original ROE Act bill that abortions after 24 weeks take place in a room with life-supporting equipment. However, it doesn’t require the doctor to use that equipment to try to save the life of a baby born after an attempted abortion.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has said he opposes the ROE Act, although it’s unclear if he will veto this amendment.