Governor Vetoes Massachusetts Abortion Bill; Opponents Counting Votes

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Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has vetoed the state Legislature’s abortion bill, setting up an override vote that is likely to be close.

Opponents of the abortion bill are happy about the veto but disappointed with the timing, which gives the leaders of the Massachusetts House of Representatives and Senate almost two weeks to schedule override votes before the current legislative session ends in early January. Baker could have waited 10 days to issue the veto, until January 1, which would have squeezed the timeframe.

Yet all attention now turns to trying to flip a handful of members of the Massachusetts House who have voted for the bill in the recent past.

“I am sadly surprised that he did not wait the full 10 days. Now we only have a short period of time to find three votes to uphold the veto,” said Bill Gillmeister, executive director of Renew Massachusetts Coalition, which opposes the abortion bill, in an email message to New Boston Post on Thursday afternoon.

“I would expect the legislature to take up the override early next week. Anyone who believes babies born alive need medical care should call their state representatives and ask them to vote to uphold the governor’s veto,” Gillmeister said.

The margin in the Massachusetts House of Representatives is so close that it could come down to how the override provision in the Massachusetts Constitution is interpreted.

The House clerk says that overriding a veto requires Yes votes from two-thirds of the members who vote either Yes or No – which would exclude members who vote Present or members who don’t vote.

Under that theory – which some observers don’t share – an override would require 106 Yes votes if all 158 current members vote either Yes or No. It would require only 105 Yes votes if only 157 members vote, and only 104 if either 156 or 155 members vote.

The most recent House vote, on December 16, was 107-49 in favor of the bill. One member voted Present. One member didn’t vote.

Opponents say they have 50 No votes lined up. Gillmeister thinks they need three more, for a possible 105-53 final vote if all 158 current members vote either Yes or No.

Governor Baker, who supports legal abortion, vetoed the abortion bill because it would allow 16-year-old and 17-year-old girls to get an abortion without the consent of a parent or a judge, which the governor opposes; and because he wanted to tighten language describing circumstances in which abortions after 24 weeks are allowed.

Baker has said he agrees with one aim of the bill – to explicitly allow abortions after 24 weeks in cases where a fatal fetal anomaly has been diagnosed.

The governor has not commented recently on another aspect of the bill that opponents emphasize – deleting language in current state law that requires doctors to try to save the life of a baby born after an attempted abortion.

Opponents have called the bill pro-infanticide because of that provision.

“Gov. Baker correctly recognized that this legislation simply goes too far, and he should be applauded for standing up and saying ‘no’ to the abortion lobby,” said Jim Lyons, chairman of the Massachusetts Republican Party, in an email message Thursday. “Gov. Baker’s decision, made the day before millions celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, should send a message to the lawmakers that this legislation has no place in a humane society.”

C.J. Williams, director of community engagement for Massachusetts Citizens for Life, hailed the veto and described the legislation, which is a watered down version of the original ROE Act abortion expansion bill, as fringe.

“We’re glad Baker has listened to the thousands of both prolife and prochoice citizens who have opposed the extremism of the ROE Act, which not only threatens newly BORN infants, but makes abortion more dangerous for mothers as well,” Williams told New Boston Post by email.

Supporters of the bill called on state legislators to override Governor Baker’s veto.

NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts called Baker’s veto “callous” and said it would harm racial minorities.

“The Governor has made plain that he has no problem imposing medically unnecessary, politically motivated barriers to abortion care that disproportionately impact communities of color, delay and deny care, and force families to fly across the country to get compassionate care,” NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts said in a written statement Thursday, December 24.


Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts linked Governor Baker with what the organization called “anti-abortion extremists.”

“Instead of standing up for patients, Gov. Baker has decided to pander to anti-abortion extremists for cheap political points and veto legislation that would remove racist & discriminatory barriers to abortion care,” Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts said in a written statement.


The House and Senate have until Tuesday, January 5, 2021 to override the governor’s veto.