Senate abortion amendment differs from House’s in 1 key way

Includes broad statement affirming a woman’s choice

THE ABORTION ACCESS amendment the Senate is expected to take up on Tuesday mirrors the amendment approved by the House last week except for one provision – a broad statement affirming the right to abortion in Massachusetts.

“The Commonwealth shall not interfere with a person’s personal decision and ability to prevent, commence, terminate, or continue their own pregnancy consistent with this chapter,” the provision states. “The Commonwealth shall not restrict the use of medically appropriate methods of abortion or the manner in which medically appropriate abortion is provided.”

Sen. Harriet Chandler of Worcester, the lead sponsor of the amendment, said the provision is absolutely necessary to preserve the reproductive rights of women in Massachusetts if Roe v Wade is struck down.

“I can’t tell you why the House didn’t include it,” she said. “I think they just overlooked it.”

But many advocacy groups say little would change in Massachusetts if the US Supreme Court rules on a challenge to 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The Massachusetts Supreme Court has recognized the right to abortion under the state’s constitution, and Massachusetts repealed a pre-Roe v Wade ban on abortion in 2018.”

Critics of the abortion access amendment in the House said concerns about possible action by the US Supreme Court were being used as cover for legislation that merely expands the existing law. The amendment would allow women as young as 16 to obtain abortions without parental or judicial approval and would also expand access to abortion when the fetus is older than 24 weeks.

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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.

Chandler, however, said the amendment is needed to make sure the state doesn’t return to the days when abortions were outlawed. “We’ve got to protect a woman’s right to choose. I grew up in the old days when there was no Roe v Wade and I know how terrible that was,” she said. “I want it for my daughter. I want it for my granddaughter. I want it for all women.”

Chandler also said approving the amendment as part of a must-pass budget for the current fiscal year does not trouble her, as it did many House Republicans and Gov. Charlie Baker. “The time is now to do it,” she said. “Women’s reproductive rights are under attack.”