Pro-Life State Rep Argues That Everyone Should Oppose Abortion Expansion Amendment

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State Representative Shawn Dooley (R-Norfolk) saw budget Amendment 759 on abortion pass in the Massachusetts House of Representatives last week, and he has concerns about it.

The altered version of the ROE Act abortion expansion amendment, attached to the House’s fiscal year 2021 budget, passed 108-49. All but one Republican opposed it, as did 19 Democrats.

The amendment, if enacted, would expand the definition of 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.” It would also mean that 16 and 17-year-old girls would no longer need judicial or parental consent to get an abortion. It also would eliminate language in existing state law that requires doctors to try to save the life of a baby born alive during an attempted abortion.

Dooley has many disagreements with the bill, as he explained to New Boston Post in a telephone interview on Tuesday afternoon.

One has to do with process. Policy matters such as abortion are not usually addressed in amendments to the state budget.

“The first and foremost concern I had was that you do not do a major piece of policy that cannot be amended in the budget,” Dooley said. “It’s poor governance. It lacks transparency. It lacks honesty. It smacks of gamesmanship. It’s everything that’s wrong with politics and it sends a message to Massachusetts voters that we don’t care about the process in order to do what we want to do and if you don’t like it, too bad.”

Standard procedure for a standalone bill is that the legislative committee considering the bill on behalf of the entire House vote on whether to recommend it to their fellow legislators. If the bill is voted out of committee, then House leadership may bring the bill to the floor so all the members can vote on it.

The original ROE Act bill (S.1209/H.3320) never received such a vote from the committee considering it — the state Legislature’s Joint Committee on the Judiciary, which received the bill January 22, 2019 — almost one year 10 months ago.

Dooley also noted that state Representative Claire Cronin (D-Easton), who sponsored the attached amendment to the state budget bill, made a parliamentary maneuver that ensured there could be no compromises proposed. Cronin attached her abortion amendment to another amendment to the budget bill — known as Amendment 759.1 — that didn’t change the content of the bill; that maneuver prevented another representative from proposing an amendment to the abortion policy language Cronin proposed.

In Dooley’s telling, it amounts to a my-way-or-the-highway approach to legislating, even if other representatives have concerns about the breadth, approach, or wording of the proposed legislation.

Dooley also cited substantive disagreements with the abortion bill.

As a father, Dooley said, he believed the proposed changes to the state’s current requirement for parental and judicial consent for a minor girl seeking an abortion are wrong.

“The content of the bill was problematic in a lot of ways,” Dooley said. “I’m a pro-life guy. As a father of a daughter who will turn 16 in a week-and-a-half, I see we’re doing a budget amendment that says a girl who is 16 can have a major surgery in a very private part of her body without a parent being notified unless something goes wrong. It’s incredibly dangerous. I think it’s irresponsible. If there is a need they can petition the court. The judges I’ve talked to are very lenient on that.

“They’re able to have a conversation with a child to make sure they’re not being coerced into it,” Dooley continued. “If you have a 16-year-old girl and a 23-year-old boyfriend, you have to make sure she’s not being coerced and he’s not taking her to maybe not the best doctor in the world — because they shopped around and found a place for $50 cheaper — these are the things as a father you don’t want. I wouldn’t let my daughter get her teeth cleaned without me knowing who the dentist was, making sure they were safe and secure and everything along those lines.”

Dooley said that his Democratic colleague, state Representative Colleen Garry (D-Dracut), made good arguments against the abortion amendment during debate on the floor last week.

At the time, Garry said, “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. 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.”

Dooley reiterated those concerns, and added another — that it’s difficult to verify whether or not a girl is 16 because there is a good chance a girl that age doesn’t have a photo ID.

“There is a real issue of sex trafficking going on worldwide,” Dooley said. “It happens and we’re not doing anything to prevent that here. I don’t know if there’s anything in there that makes you actually determine that they’re 16. I don’t recall reading in there that there’s any way you have to prove you’re 16.

“Now you have a sex trafficker, are they going to bring in 15-year-olds and say, ‘I’m her dad, yeah she’s 16, don’t worry about it’?” he said. “And this girl might not necessarily speak English well. Oftentimes they’re in fear for their lives and their families’ lives. Colleen wanted to put a safeguard in for that so they could see if they were in fear, if they speak English, make sure they have a translator. Not to counsel them outside of having the abortion, but so they know what their rights are. “

Additionally, Dooley said he wouldn’t be doing his job as a parent if he wasn’t looking out for his children as well as the children of the Commonwealth.

“My daughter is very very bright,” Dooley said. “She’s way more mature than my boys. She’s not in a position to make that call if she’s with a boyfriend who is older, more dominant, or if you’re fearful that your life will be ruined or that your parents will be mad. I don’t think it sends a good message. It takes away parental rights.

“My number-one job as my parent is to protect my children,” he added. “I just can’t even imagine getting a call that my daughter was in some sleezy abortion clinic God knows where and something went wrong and she died, couldn’t have children again, or got rushed to the hospital. As a parent, it rips my heart out.”

Will Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker accept this abortion amendment and sign it into law? Dooley is optimistic that he won’t.

“I am hopeful,” Dooley said. “I have spoken to Governor Baker numerous times — not so much on the Amendment — on the original ROE Act, and he was adamant that he would veto it.”

However, Dooley points out that even if Governor Baker vetoes the abortion amendment, it could still become law. The Democratic Party has a veto-proof supermajority in both chambers of the Massachusetts Legislature, and the abortion amendment has already passed the House with a veto-proof majority of more than the needed two-thirds.

“This is why elections matter,” Dooley said. “Forty-nine voted against it. Thirty Republicans, 19 Democrats. We need 54 to sustain a veto so if a few more Republicans had kept their seats, we’d be there. Hopefully, if the governor vetoes, we can get the word out. I think there are some Democrats who are torn on this particular one. I think with enough outreach from their constituents, we can get it.

“Even the ones who are conflicted have an out,” he added. “They can disagree with it merely on process. They can say it shouldn’t be this Zoom call at the 11th hour at 7:30 at night. It just sends the wrong message to the people of Massachusetts. We should be transparent and honest. If we’re going forward with this, let’s at least have a true discussion and honest debate.”