Around New England

Wire Service Calls ROE Act Abortion Expansion Bill ‘Popular’

September 22, 2020

A news service that covers the Massachusetts Legislature called the proposed ROE Act abortion expansion measure “a popular bill dealing with abortion access that has been bottled up in a Democrat-controlled committee for 20 months.”

State House News Service also reported Monday that the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts is calling on state legislators to approve the bill as a tribute to the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who supported abortion. The U.S. Supreme Court justice died Friday, September 18 of complications of pancreatic cancer, at age 87.

The story did not cite evidence for the bill’s popularity.

A poll released by opponents of the ROE Act bill in June 2019 found that 62 percent of registered voters oppose expanding late-term abortions and support parental consent for girls 17 and younger. The proposed ROE Act bill would remove the current requirement in state law that minor girls get the permission of a parent or a superior court judge in order to have an abortion. It would also remove most remaining restrictions on abortions after 24 weeks and expand public funding of abortion.

The bill would also remove a current requirement in the state law that a doctor try to save the life of a baby born after an attempted abortion – something the poll did not ask about.

The June 2019 poll was produced by The Tarrance Group, of Alexandria, Virginia, for Susan B. Anthony List, which opposes abortion.

A poll released in October 2018 by MassINC Polling Group for NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, which supports the ROE Act bill, found broad support for legal abortion in the state, but did not report a question about parental consent or about babies born after an attempted abortion.

As State House News Service reported, more than half of state legislators have signed on as sponsors of the proposed ROE Act bill, but some have quietly expressed reluctance to move on it.

Many legislators have been reluctant to speak publicly about the bill. In July, 15 of the 16 members of Joint Committee on the Judiciary, which is considering the bill, did not respond to requests from New Boston Post to comment on the bill.

The ROE Act bill appeared dead earlier in the summer, but a decision by leaders on Beacon Hill to extend the formal session of the Legislature has made its reappearance this year conceivable.

The deadline for the Joint Committee on the Judiciary to make a recommendation on the bill has been extended to Thursday, November 12 – nine days after the general election. That sets up the prospect for high-profile measures such as the ROE Act bill to be decided on the floor during a lame-duck session.

The State House News Service news story on the bill published Monday, September 21 appears below:


NARAL: Pass ROE Act to Honor Ginsburg’s Legacy

While much of the attention since U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death Friday has been paid to a looming confirmation fight, one influential organization has instead focused on pressing Beacon Hill leaders to act on a popular bill dealing with abortion access that has been bottled up in a Democrat-controlled committee for 20 months.

The idea of President Donald Trump nominating a third justice to the nation’s highest court has re-energized activists and organizations that fear a conservative Supreme Court would undo abortion rights and more.

“Faced with such grave uncertainty about the future of the High Court, Massachusetts must lead. We must not only reaffirm the right to safe, legal abortion care, but also ensure that all Bay Staters have access to the reproductive health care they need free from politically-motivated obstacles grounded in stigma and shame. After all, a right on paper is no right at all if you cannot exercise it,” Rebecca Hart Holder, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, said. “We are calling on the state legislature to honor the memory and legacy of Justice Ginsburg by passing the ROE Act immediately. The time for debate is over. Passing the ROE Act simply cannot wait any longer.”

The so-called ROE Act (H 3320/S 1209) would eliminate parental consent requirements for teenagers seeking an abortion and allow for abortions after 24 weeks to protect the physical or mental health of a patient or in cases of diagnosed lethal fetal anomalies. It would also require “safety net” health insurance coverage for abortions for Massachusetts residents ineligible for MassHealth.

The bill, which more than half of the members of each branch of the Legislature have co-sponsored, has been in the Judiciary Committee for the entire 2019-2020 legislative session and lawmakers recently extended the deadline for the committee to make a recommendation on the bill until Nov. 12.

The November reporting deadline falls a week after this year’s elections and a time when the Legislature could be holding lame-duck formal sessions due to a late July vote to continue holding formal sessions for the rest of 2020.