BOSTON–The ROE Act Coalition released the following statement in response to Governor Baker’s proposed amendment of Section 40: 

“After four years of attacks on reproductive rights by the Trump administration and with a new majority anti-abortion U.S. Supreme Court, the Massachusetts legislature rightly prioritized making reproductive health care accessible to all Bay Staters. The ROE Act Coalition is deeply disappointed by Governor Baker’s failure to recognize the urgent need to improve access to care. His amendment pushes abortion care out of reach for many, especially for people with low-incomes and communities of color.

“The Governor cannot have it both ways: He cannot call himself pro-choice and keep anti-choice restrictions in place. Current law in Massachusetts is broken, and this amendment maintains the state’s greatest barriers to care. For decades, medically unnecessary barriers to abortion have sent people out of state, forced young people to go before a judge, and delayed and denied care. Under Governor Baker’s amendment these hardships will continue. These barriers disproportionately harm people of color and people with low incomes. 

“By passing their reforms, lawmakers, under the leadership of Senate President Spilka and House Speaker DeLeo, committed to meaningfully improving access to safe, legal abortion in Massachusetts. Governor Baker’s amended provision undermines this broadly supported public health proposal and perpetuates government interference in personal health care decisions. Legislators must finish this process true to the spirit with which it began—with a commitment to equitable access to abortion care. The ROE Act Coalition urges legislators to reject Governor Baker’s amendment and send back language that eliminates longstanding, politically motivated barriers to abortion.”

Background:

The ROE Act Coalition is a statewide coalition committed to passing the ROE Act to protect and expand access to abortion in Massachusetts. Founding organizations include the ACLU of Massachusetts, NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, and Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts.

In addition to weakening reforms throughout the provision, Governor Baker’s amendment leaves intact the harmful requirement that young people seeking abortion must have a parent’s consent or judicial authorization to access care. Young people under 18 can access all other pregnancy-related care except abortion and maintaining this restriction will delay young people care or force them to seek care out of state.  

While Section 40 as passed by the Legislature, didn’t have everything the ROE Act Coalition championed, it contained essential provisions that would improve access to reproductive health care for pregnant people across the state:

  • Section 40 maintained the requirement that a young person under the age of 16 must have permission from their parents or a judge to seek abortion care. However, it streamlined access for those under 16 years old by allowing remote hearings, minimizing harmful delays to care. 
    • Compared to other New England states, Massachusetts currently has some of the most restrictive laws denying young people abortion access. This compels many young people to leave the state for care. 
    • Allowing young people 16 and older to consent to abortion care is consistent with Massachusetts law that allows young people 16 and older to consent to sex. 
    • Massachusetts law recognizes young people are capable of making their own medical decisions. Young people can already consent to reproductive health care and all pregnancy-related care, except abortion. This amendment ensures the state is no longer intervening in private medical decisions. 
  • Section 40 would allow families to obtain care later in pregnancy in cases of lethal fetal diagnosis — without having to travel across the country.
    • Under current law, families must travel out of state–often as far as Colorado or New Mexico–to access abortion. They must pay for this care out-of-pocket.  
    • States hostile to reproductive rights — such as Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Mississippi — allow abortion care in cases of lethal fetal diagnosis. 

 

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