A proposed bill in Massachusetts would significantly increase access to abortions in the state. Known as the ROE Act, the bill would make abortion legal after 24 weeks of gestation, expand the reasons why a doctor might deem abortion necessary, and remove the requirement for parental consent for minors.
“If legislators pass the ROE Act, parents would still have to consent to a flu shot for their 12-year-old daughter but not an abortion,” Myrna Maloney Flynn told The Washington Times. Flynn is the president of the Massachusetts Citizens for Life.
What Would the ROE Act Do?
The ROE Act permits abortions after 24 weeks if “the abortion is necessary to protect the patient’s life or physical or mental health, in cases of lethal fetal anomalies, or where the fetus is incompatible with sustained life outside the uterus.” The bill goes on to say, “Medical judgment may be exercised in the light of all factors—physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the person’s age—relevant to the well-being of the patient.” According to the National Review, this language “essentially allows for abortion on demand up until the moment of birth.”
Underage girls seeking abortions in Massachusetts must currently either have parental consent or obtain the approval of a judge in order to get an abortion. The proposed law would eliminate that requirement and keep the decision solely between a patient and her doctor. It also seeks to minimize the amount of time a girl might have to wait to get the abortion. The bill says,
The consent form and any other forms shall be confidential and may not be released to any person other than to the pregnant person to whom such documents relate or the operating physician, except by the pregnant patient’s written consent; provided, however, that this requirement shall not impose any waiting period between the signing of the consent form and the performance of the abortion.
At a State House rally at the end of October, Myrna Maloney Flynn urged legislators not to support the ROE Act. She pointed out that the new bill gets rid of requirements for there to be life support present when an abortion is conducted and that doctors would not be legally required to the save the lives of children who survive abortions. Said Flynn, “Saving the life of those independent humans cannot interfere with reproductive rights (because) the mothers’ bodies are no longer involved. There is no longer any conflict between the right to life and the right to choose”
What’s more, the ROE Act would not require abortions to be provided in hospitals. At the rally, an attorney from New Mexico (which currently allows late-term abortions at out-patient clinics) explained how removing the resources of a hospital seriously endangers women’s lives. One of his clients lost her life as a result of a septic late-term abortion.
Threat to Roe Has Abortion Advocates Pushing for ROE
There are two versions of the proposed bill, and they are identical except for their titles and sponsors. Currently, the bills are under review by the Joint Committee on the Judiciary. You can learn more here about the process of how a bill becomes a law in the state of Massachusetts.
The Valley Advocate reports that the ROE Act has majority support in both the House and the Senate (22 out of 40 state senators and 91 out of 160 state representatives). However, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker does not support the ROE Act, despite being in favor of legal abortion. Baker, who is a Republican, does not back late-term abortion and has expressed concerns about the law’s elimination of parental consent.
Pro-choice advocates are in full favor of the ROE Act, seeing the possibility of Roe v. Wade being overturned as a reason to expand abortion access now. In a webpage defending the bill, Planned Parenthood says, “With the U.S. Supreme Court poised to gut Roe v. Wade, Massachusetts must dismantle barriers to care and reform state laws so every person has the right to pursue the life they want.” Other abortion proponents echo this sentiment. State Senator Harriette Chandler, one of the bill’s sponsors, told NPR, “I think if people realize what a post-Roe world would be, that would make it even more reasonable to do this bill.”
Among the speakers at the State House rally in October was abortion survivor Claire Culwell. Culwell’s mother had an abortion at age 13, not realizing she was pregnant with twins. Not being able to get another abortion due to risk of infection, Culwell’s mother gave her daughter up for adoption.
Culwell, who has since met her birth mother, told those gathered, “When I see people celebrating a woman’s right to choose, I think, What about me? What was my choice as a woman? What about my mother as a 13-year-old little girl who just needed someone to stand up for her? What about us? Do they not see us?”