House rejects Baker’s abortion amendment
Governor refuses to say whether he’ll issue veto
THE HOUSE on Wednesday voted 107-49 to reject Gov. Charlie Baker’s amendment paring back a legislative proposal to expand access to abortion in Massachusetts.
The measure now goes to the Senate, which is likely to vote similarly, and from there back to the governor, who can veto it, sign it into law, or let it become law without his signature.
Baker refused to say what he will do on Wednesday. “We’ll see whatever happens with whatever they send back to us,” he said.
The House vote on Wednesday – with 107 against the amendment, 49 in favor, and Rep. Marcos Dever voting present – was almost identical to the 108-49 vote the House took on November 12 when it passed its original abortion language. The 49 votes cast in favor of Baker’s amendment included 16 Democrats, an Independent, and all but one of the House’s Republicans.
The original legislative proposal lowered the age from 18 to 16 at which a woman can obtain an abortion without the approval of a parent or a judge. It also allowed abortions after 24 weeks in cases of “lethal fetal anomaly,” when the fetus “is incompatible with sustained life outside the uterus,” or “to preserve the patient’s physical or mental health.”
Baker’s amendment eliminated the lower age of consent, retained the language about lethal fetal anomalies, and narrowed the language in the other areas.
“The House today reaffirmed its long-standing commitment to protecting reproductive rights in Massachusetts under threat by changes in the makeup of the US Supreme Court,” said House Speaker Bob DeLeo in a statement.
During floor debate, Republican Rep. Sheila Harrington of Groton said she supported the governor’s amendment. “Although I wish it could have gone further, it does address the issue that 16-year-olds are too vulnerable in age to do thism” she said.
Rep. Claire Cronin, a Democrat from Easton who chairs the Judiciary Committee, repeated many of the arguments she made during the original debate in November. She noted a 16-year-old can legally have sex and give birth, with all the health and legal issues that entails. “The only decision that she cannot make regarding her pregnancy is whether to terminate it,” Cronin said.Advocates for greater abortion access say judicial or parental consent is not easy to obtain for many 16-year-olds, who end up traveling out of state to terminate their pregnancies.
A second abortion-related amendment proposed by Republican State Reps. Alison Sullivan of Abington and Marc Lombardo of Billerica was not adopted on Wednesday. The amendment was designed to make sure babies born alive following an attempted abortion could have access to life-saving medical treatment, but Cronin said that care is already provided under current law.