Last night I attended a very informative presentation on the ROE Act (S. 1209, H. 3320). Representatives Gena Frank from NARAL and Kim Kargman from Planned Parenthood Action attended, as well as a couple of legislators including Representative Patricia Haddad (Dighton, Fall River, Taunton, Swansea), who is a lead sponsor, and Representative Joan Meschino (Hingham, Hull, Cohasset, Scituate), who is one of more than 100 cosponsors. The room was packed with people from all over the South Shore and one from as far away as Brighton.
The ROE Act is a compassionate solution to some real problems women in Mass face accessing reproductive healthcare. Critically, it shores up the right of women to have abortions before 24 weeks without interference from the government, so that no matter what happens on the federal level–if, say, our nightmare is realized and Roe v. Wade is overturned–women in this state will still be able to access reproductive healthcare. But this act goes further. Teenagers who find themselves with an unwanted pregnancy will no longer have to obtain parental permission or go before a judge in order to have an abortion. And women who discover that their pregnancies are nonviable after 24 weeks will be able to have an abortion in this state.
Both of these additions to the ROE Act are critical, compassionate, and common sense. Right now, a teenager who finds herself pregnant can decide, without parental interference, all prenatal and delivery care, including whether to have a c-section, which is major abdominal surgery, but she cannot legally decide whether to terminate her pregnancy. We have teens traveling out of state to avoid talking to their parents, which can mean delays that make a relatively safe procedure more dangerous and costly. Whatever reasons a teen has for not wanting to ask her parents for permission to have an abortion, we must respect her judgement. And we must respect the intelligence and judgement of the doctors in whom they confide. Doctors are mandated reporters. If there’s a crime, if there’s coercion, if there’s anything going on that law enforcement and parents need to get involved in, the medical doctor who is working with that teen will get law enforcement and parents involved.
At the other end of the spectrum, the late term abortions which would be allowed by this act are an act of kindness in a tragic moment no person ever imagines herself in. When fetuses are diagnosed with abnormalities which are incompatible with life, women are forced to carry to term or go to places like Colorado to access healthcare, because Massachusetts law currently prohibits abortion after 24 weeks. It’s a rare circumstance–only 24 women faced this decision last year–but think about those women being told that a wanted child is not going to survive, and that their chosen, trusted doctor can’t help them terminate the pregnancy in this state. This is a cruel fate on top of a cruel fate. Massachusetts is better than this, and we have an opportunity to prove it during this legislative session.
I believe that the way we get legislation passed is by educating voters on these issues, building consensus, and correcting misinformation wherever it is found. The South Shore Democratic Caucus forum was a great first step in that direction. We need more like it. When I’m your state rep, organizing and participating in educational events will continue to be a high priority of mine. Weymouth and Hingham deserve to be part of the conversation. It’s time to let the light in and make the operation of government transparent. If I am elected, I will let the sun shine on everything I touch.
For more information about ROE:
- Planned Parenthood ROE Act Information and Action site: https://www.plannedparenthoodaction.org/planned-parenthood-advocacy-fund-massachusetts-inc/issues/roe-act
- NARAL also offers a lot of resources: https://prochoicemass.org/issue/expanding-abortion-access/
- MA Legislature for the text of the bills: S. 1209, H. 3320 https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/SD109, https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/H3320
- MA State Law which allows pregnant teenagers to consent to all medical procedures except for abortion and sterilization, General Law – Part I, Title XVI, Chapter 112, Section 12F, excerpted below, emphasis added:
Text of Section 12F
Any minor may give consent to his medical or dental care at the time such care is sought if (i) he is married, widowed, divorced; or (ii) he is the parent of a child, in which case he may also give consent to medical or dental care of the child; or (iii) he is a member of any of the armed forces; or (iv) she is pregnant or believes herself to be pregnant; or (v) he is living separate and apart from his parent or legal guardian, and is managing his own financial affairs; or (vi) he reasonably believes himself to be suffering from or to have come in contact with any disease defined as dangerous to the public health pursuant to section six of chapter one hundred and eleven; provided, however, that such minor may only consent to care which relates to the diagnosis or treatment of such disease.
Consent shall not be granted under subparagraphs (ii) through (vi), inclusive, for abortion or sterilization.