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Explainer: Massachusetts passes law to expand abortion

Also lowers parental consent age

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December 31, 2020

On Christmas Eve, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker vetoed legislation that would expand access to abortion in the state. On Dec. 29, the Massachusetts legislature overrode Gov. Baker’s veto, with a Senate vote of 32-8 and a House vote of 107-46. The abortion-expanding measure was included in the recently passed $46 billion budget. 

The ROE Act codified abortion into state law and allows for abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy in cases with a cases of of “fatal fetal anomalies,” and when a physician deems it necessary “to preserve the patient’s physical or mental health.” In addition, the ROE Act lowers the age at which minors can obtain an abortion without parental consent from 18 to 16.

Gov. Baker, in a letter to the legislature, stated that he “strongly” supports a woman’s right to access reproductive health care, including the provision in the bill that would make abortions available after 24 weeks of pregnancy if the fetus would not survive after birth. But in his letter he stated, “I cannot support the sections of this proposal that expand the availability of later-term abortions and permit minors age 16 and 17 to get an abortion without the consent of a parent or guardian.” Baker requested changes to this measure, including changing the qualifying condition for a later-term abortion to “if a continuation of the pregnancy will impose, in the best medical judgment of the physician, a substantial risk to” the patient’s physical or mental health.

Current Massachusetts state law only allows for abortions after 24 weeks if “necessary to save the life of the mother, or if a continuation of her pregnancy will impose on her a substantial risk of grave impairment of her physical or mental health.” But the ROE Act expands access to abortion and includes minors in the expanded access. 

Why does this matter?

Gov. Baker has stated that the ROE Act “would give Massachusetts some of the broadest and most significant reproductive health rights in the United States.” More than 400 Massachusetts pastors called on Gov. Baker to veto the legislation, calling it a “shocking and callous disregard for human life and the importance of parental involvement in the lives of children.”

Interestingly, Massachusetts was one of the first states to pass limits on legal abortions in the 1970s, including required parental consent for minors. Parents should have the right to protect their daughters from the dangerous practices of the abortion industry. 

This decision by the Massachusetts legislature comes after states like New York and Virginia passed increasingly expansive abortion legislation. Those states have advocated for safe and legal abortion at every gestational stage. Yet, polling shows us that the majority of Americans are opposed to late-term abortion, and 80% of Americans support abortion being limited to the first three months of pregnancy.

As Christians, we must not place our ultimate hope in legislation, but we also must not neglect the God-ordained role of government in restraining evil and shaping the conscience of society on vital issues like human dignity. We believe that every unborn child has innate dignity and worth and ought to be protected in the womb, and beyond. The ERLC is committed to protecting the life of the unborn and will continue to work to ensure that state and federal laws reflect that commitment.

Chelsea Patterson Sobolik

Chelsea Patterson Sobolik serves as the Director of Public Policy with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission in the Washington, D.C. office. Previously, she worked on Capitol Hill on pro-life policies, domestic and international religious freedom, adoption, and foster care issues. Chelsea has been published at the Wall Street Journal, … Read More