Massachusetts Republicans Can Collect Signatures On Born-Alive Ballot Question — For Now

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The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court says that the Massachusetts Newborn Protection Coalition can collect signatures for the time being in a push to get their born-alive protection question onto the November 2022 ballot.

The state’s highest court granted a preliminary injunction late Thursday afternoon, allowing the process to continue while the court considers the appeal.

“This matter came before the court, Wendlandt, J., on a complaint in the nature of mandamus and request for a preliminary injunction. With the agreement of all parties and without making any determination as to whether the plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits of their claim, it is ORDERED, pending a final decision in this case, that: (a) the Attorney General release a summary of Initiative Petition No. 21-05 to the Secretary; and (b) the Secretary, subject to the filing of all required materials with him, prepare and release to the plaintiffs blank petition forms for the gathering of signatures,” the court ruling said, according to a screenshot provided by the Massachusetts Republican Party in a press release.

The injunction comes after Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey last week rejected the petition, which is called “A Law To Preserve the Lives of Children Born Alive.”

Healey’s office criticized the wording of the initiative, saying that it had “several highly ambiguous provisions.” A lawyer in the office also noted that there is no enforcement mechanism listed in the proposal.

“Considering the omissions and unresolvable ambiguities described above, we cannot determine with certainty what the proposed law means or would do,” a letter signed by Anne Sterman, deputy chief of the government bureau of the state Attorney General’s office said. It was signed on Wednesday, September 1.

The coalition disagreed with Healey and filed a complaint in court on Tuesday, September 7.

Supporters of the petition were pleased with the court’s ruling on Thursday.

“There’s nothing at all ambiguous about a law guaranteeing newborns access to medical care, and we’re glad the state Supreme Judicial Court agreed to grant us a preliminary injunction so we can move forward,” said Bernadette Lyons, who chairs the Massachusetts Newborn Protection Coalition, the organization sponsoring the measure, in a press release issued by the MassGOP. “Now the hard work begins, and the people behind this initiative petition are eager to get started.”

The proposed wording of this ballot initiative says:


Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, if a child is born alive, all reasonable steps, in keeping with good medical practice, shall be taken to preserve the life of the child born alive.


The coalition wants to restore the protections for babies born alive following an attempted abortion that existed in state law from 1974 to 2020. The ROE Act, which passed last year despite bipartisan opposition, repealed  Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 112, Section 12P. It stated that “the physician performing the abortion shall take all reasonable steps, both during and subsequent to the abortion, in keeping with good medical practice, consistent with the procedure being used, to preserve the life and health of the aborted child.”

The original born-alive provision in state law initially came about in response to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized elective abortion across the United States. A year and a half later, the Massachusetts Legislature passed “An Act To Protect Unborn Children and Maternal Health Within Present Constitutional Limits”, which included the born-alive provision.

The petitioners have to collect at least 80,239 authentic signatures from registered Massachusetts voters by November 17 to move their cause closer to the state general election ballot in November 2022. They also need a favorable ruling on the substance of the petition from the state Supreme Judicial Court.


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