With Donald Trump in the White House, Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, and abortion as a federal right hanging in the balance, protecting women's choice is becoming a struggle waged state by state.
So far this year, four jurisdictions have banned abortion after the first six weeks of pregnancy, which means bans would take effect before many women know they're pregnant. A fifth state, Alabama, has gone even further, banning abortion outright and decreeing life sentences for doctors who perform the procedure.
All of this brings to memory the bad old days, in which a good many women seeking an abortion paid a price with their health, and some paid a price with their lives.
That's why I support a new pro-choice bill pending before the Massachusetts Legislature, formally entitled "An Act to remove obstacles and expand abortion access" and known informally as the ROE Act.
One purpose of ROE is to change several restrictive Massachusetts laws that have been inoperative for years but remain on the books. If not repealed, these Big Brother laws, meant to intimidate and obstruct, will re-apply as soon as the federal right weakens or disappears.
In place of Big Brother, the ROE Act offers
protections to ensure that no person is denied care, has care delayed, or is forced to go elsewhere for care. Example: Women are occasionally given the heartbreaking diagnosis later in pregnancy that their child, once outside the womb, will not be able to survive. The Act gives women in this terrible situation access to abortions here in Massachusetts.
Another example: Current law routes younger women to court when they want to waive parental involvement, leaving the decision to a judge who isn't trained to recognize signs of abuse or coercion. In a perfect world, all
of us would arrange for every single pregnant teenager to have a supportive parent to whom she could turn. But a young person who isn't so fortunate, faced with the prospect of finding her way through an impossibly complicated judicial system, will end up trapped. The ROE Act ensures that women in this situation can bypass the courts and make their way directly to a doctor and a safe medical setting.
My position, in a nutshell: If the national government voids rights on which we depend, state government must step in and protect such rights whenever it can. The House, the Senate, and the Governor should enter the ROE Act into the statute books of Massachusetts.
Sen. Mike Barrett