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.

Only a majority of House members were needed to overturn the governor’s amendment. If the governor vetoes the package, it would take a two-thirds vote to override the veto. The House vote on Wednesday was right at the two-thirds level.

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.

Meet the Author

Sarah Betancourt

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a long-time Latina reporter in Massachusetts. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a breaking news reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, incarceration, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a long-time Latina reporter in Massachusetts. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a breaking news reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, incarceration, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

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.

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.