Baker vetoes abortion bill

Objects to lowering age for parental, judicial consent

GOV. CHARLIE BAKER vetoed the Legislature’s abortion bill on Thursday, forcing lawmakers to override his veto if they want to insist on lowering from 18 to 16 the age at which a woman can obtain an abortion without the approval of a parent or judge.

Baker previously offered an amendment to the Legislature’s abortion proposal doing away with the provisions he disliked, but both branches rejected the amendment and returned the legislation to the governor as originally crafted.

After days of hemming and hawing at State House press conferences about what he intended to do with the abortion language, Baker’s office issued a statement just before 2 p.m. saying he was returning the bill unsigned, which a spokeswoman said was the equivalent of a veto.

“I strongly support a woman’s right to access reproductive health care, and many provisions of this bill,” Baker said in a message to the Legislature. “I support, for example, the provision that would enable a woman to access an abortion where the child would not survive after birth, and the modifications to the judicial bypass process that make it more accessible to minors who are unable to obtain the consent of a parent or guardian. I also support the changes that eliminate many outdated requirements and the 24-hour waiting period.”

“However, 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.  I, therefore, again urge the Legislature to enact the compromise version of the bill that would affirmatively protect a woman’s right to access an abortion, but would restore the existing framework around late-term abortions and parental consent.”

Both branches of the Legislature beat back the governor’s amendment by comfortable margins, but overriding a veto requires two-thirds support. The House, in its 107-49 earlier vote insisting on the original language, garnered two-thirds support but with no room to spare.

Legislative leaders say the new abortion language is critical given the anti-abortion tilt of the US Supreme Court. But critics of the measure say lawmakers are using the new makeup of the Supreme Court as cover to expand abortion access in Massachusetts.

Many advocacy groups say little would change in Massachusetts if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. The Center for Reproductive Rights, for example, says if Roe v. Wade is weakened or overturned “abortion will remain legal in Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Supreme Court has recognized the right to abortion under the state’s constitution, and Massachusetts repealed a pre-Roe v. Wade ban on abortion in 2018.”

Abortion rights advocates say the changes Baker is seeking to block are necessary to protect access to abortion in the state. They say young women often find it difficult to win parental consent for an abortion and are reluctant to go before a judge. As a result, they say, many women end up traveling to states that permit abortions without parental or judicial consent.

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

A group calling itself the Roe Act Coalition, whose founding organizations are the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, and the Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts, issued a statement calling for an override.

“With this veto, the governor has made plain that he has no problem imposing medically unnecessary barriers that delay and deny care, and forcing families to fly across the country to get compassionate care. Our abortion laws are broken, and with two recent actions against equitable abortion access, Governor Baker is upholding our broken system,” the coalition statement said. “These provisions are supported by large majorities in both chambers, and we respectfully call on the Legislature to override the governor’s veto. Unlike Governor Baker, legislators understand that merely affirming the abstract right to safe, legal abortion is not enough; we must protect and improve abortion access so every person can get the care they need. It is up to the Legislature to once again lead where Governor Baker has failed. “