Senate amendment reinforces a woman’s right to privacy

Measure would codify Roe v Wade in state law

MASSACHUSETTS HAS the opportunity to continue its legacy of expanding freedom by the Legislature passing Senate budget amendment 180 to remove obstacles and expand abortion access. This amendment includes policies proposed by the ROE Act, and firmly establishes reproductive rights as part of the Commonwealth’s canon of liberties. Additionally, the amendment would improve healthcare for women, and remove legal, medical, and social barriers that disproportionately fall on women of color and women who are economically disadvantaged.

At a time when the Roe v Wade decision is being threatened by a predominantly conservative US Supreme Court and following the heartbreaking passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, amendment 180 would reinforce the underlying principle in Roe — the right to privacy. That right extends to a woman making decisions about having a child, and is integral not just to ensure that a woman has full rights in our society, including over her own body, but actually creates an environment that leads to healthier families.

In modern American history, abortion rights has been a battleground issue in states across the country. In 1973, the Supreme Court affirmed the right to choose nationwide with Roe v. Wade, which dictates that no state can overtly restrict a person’s ability to seek an abortion. On that day the Baptist Press proclaimed, “Religious liberty, human equality, and justice are advanced by the Supreme Court abortion decision.” Soon after, however, states began passing restrictions on that landmark court decision, including Massachusetts. In 1974, the Massachusetts Legislature, comprised of a majority of anti-choice legislators, passed an act to protect unborn children and maternal health within constitutional limits, which was intended to be as strict as possible on reproductive rights within the confines of the Roe decision. Despite Republican Gov. Frank Sargent vetoing the bill, it became law.

Many of the provisions in the amendment seek to repeal current laws governing abortion care that are rooted in the 1974 law.

But through decades of debates over reproductive rights, one fundamental truth remains unchanged: those who seek abortion care choose it not only for themselves, but for the good of their families and the future they hope to build. The anti-abortion movement originated out of political expediency, while those fighting for reproductive justice sought to uphold personal freedom and family values.

Here in Massachusetts, we once again have the opportunity to affirm reproductive justice through the policies included in the amendment, even in the face of a hostile US Supreme Court. The right to choose is not written in Massachusetts state law. With amendment 180 we have the chance to codify Roe v Wade in our state laws, so that no matter what happens in Washington our people are protected. We also have the opportunity to strike the reactionary and restrictive laws written in the 1970s.

We have the chance to expand the right to abortion to young people, some of whom currently have to seek permission in a courtroom if they want to access care. And to expand the right to people facing medical crises late in pregnancy, when told their fetus will not survive outside of the womb. Under current law, those people pregnant with a fatally damaged fetus must travel to New Mexico or Colorado, the only two states where a person can receive an abortion if their pregnancy is certain to result in a stillbirth.

Meet the Author

Jamie Eldridge

Senator from Acton, Massachusetts Senate
Meet the Author

Harriette Chandler

Senator from Worcester/President emerita, Massachusetts Senate
Massachusetts again finds herself on the edge of history. We can serve as a beacon of hope in an uncertain national environment, where reproductive freedoms may soon cease nationwide. No matter what happens nationally, Massachusetts must deliver on the promise of the right to choose, and therefore expand freedom to all of the Commonwealth’s residents.

Jamie Eldridge is a state senator from Acton and Harriette Chandler is the state senator from Worcester.