ROE Act is good policy, politics

Look to Virginia for the power of reproductive rights

ON NOVEMBER 5, 2019, Virginia voters made history by voting to flip both chambers of the state legislature and creating, for the first time, a pro-choice majority. This sea change is more than a symbolic victory for the reproductive rights movement, it is the tipping point for women’s reproductive freedoms across our country, including in Massachusetts.

In a national environment where nine states have passed unconstitutional abortion bans to overturn Roe v. Wade and the US Supreme Court will hear a case that could uphold harmful restrictions on abortion, the recent election results in Virginia prove that hateful attacks on women and their reproductive freedoms are out of sync with the electorate. On election night, Virginia voters sent a clear signal that extremist propaganda will not get you reelected. In fact, recent polling shows that 72 percent of Virginians believe politicians shouldn’t prevent a woman from making her own decisions about pregnancy or abortion.

But why is this important, and what does this have to do with Massachusetts?

In early 2019, the anti-choice movement bristled at proactive legislation in Virginia to expand access to abortion, launching an extremist, anti-science misinformation campaign. Although medical professionals condemned this dangerous rhetoric, their lies reverberated across the nation, including in Massachusetts where the ROE Act is poised to make us the national leader in access to reproductive healthcare.

Still, in Massachusetts, like in Virginia, the numbers speak for themselves. According to polling from MassINC, 80 percent of Massachusetts voters believe that Roe v. Wade should be upheld and 83 percent believe that abortion should be legal in almost all or most cases. Seventy-eight percent of voters all support a state law guaranteeing the legal right to abortion and 85 percent believe Massachusetts should be a leader in ensuring that a woman who has made a decision to get an abortion is able to get safe, supportive, respectful care in her community. The Massachusetts Legislature is currently debating legislation that would do just that.

The ROE Act is historic legislation that would expand womens’ reproductive freedom by reforming our state’s abortion laws, ensuring that anyone, regardless of age, income, or insurance status, can access safe, legal abortion. Reproductive freedom—including the power to prevent a pregnancy, become a parent, or end a pregnancy—is essential for achieving gender equality. In response to the ROE Act, anti-choice extremists have taken a page from the playbook in Virginia and launched an extremist, anti-science misinformation campaign designed to scare voters and intimidate legislators about the ROE Act.

All of the data and the outcome of the Virginia elections tell us that Beacon Hill should embrace the ROE Act. Not just because it is the right thing for reproductive freedom but also because it is good politics. Americans across the country — in red, blue, and purple states — support reproductive freedom and candidates are wise to make clear their commitment to ensuring every woman can make her own decisions about how, if, and when to raise a family.

The ROE Act is about trusting women, trusting them to know what is best for their own health, for their families, and for their lives. More than 100 state legislators on both sides of the aisle have demonstrated their support for the ROE Act and have stood firm against hateful attacks.

So, what did election night in Virginia tell us? If Virginians — in the cradle of 2019’s extremist anti-choice misinformation campaign— can make their stance on reproductive freedom clear, so, too, can Massachusetts. It tells us that anti-choice attacks on reproductive freedom are not only bad for women, they are bad for candidates. It tells us that the ROE Act is not just a good public policy, it’s a winning issue in red, blue, and purple districts across Massachusetts.

Meet the Author

Rebecca Hart Holder

Executive director, NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts
When the Legislature returns from recess, we implore them to vote on this landmark piece of legislation.

Rebecca Hart Holder is executive director of NARAL Pro Choice Massachusetts.