Groups urge ROE Act passage to honor Ginsburg
Abortion rights advocates seize on justice’s death to push bill
WITH PRESIDENT TRUMP widely expected to nominate a pro-life judge to replace Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a strong abortion rights voice on the court who died Friday at the age of 87, pro-choice advocates and some Democratic legislators have decided the best way to honor Ginsburg’s memory is to push for the passage of state legislation strengthening abortion access in Massachusetts.
A coalition that includes Planned Parenthood of Massachusetts, NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, is calling for the passage of controversial legislation dubbed the ROE Act that would expand abortion access.
Recognizing that Ginsburg “cherished reproductive freedom,” the groups said in a joint statement that they are determined to work to “protect her legacy” by pushing for the bill’s passage.
The legislation would expand access to abortion, require health insurance coverage for abortions to be covered for low-income residents not eligible for MassHealth, and allow for abortions after 24 weeks in cases where the fetus has been diagnosed with a fatal birth defect. Current law only allows abortions to occur after 24 weeks when the life of the mother is at risk.
“As Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump scheme to nominate and confirm another radical anti-abortion opponent to the US Supreme Court, our state legislators must take swift and immediate action to guarantee equitable access to safe, legal abortion care in Massachusetts and ensure that all Bay Staters have access to the reproductive health care they need,” a statement from the coalition read.
Although Democrats enjoy super-majorities in both the House and Senate, the legislation has been sitting in the Joint Committee on the Judiciary for 20 months.
Rep. Clarie Cronin, the House chair of the Judiciary Committee, was reportedly meeting with legislators to drum up support for the bill before the coronavirus pandemic hit. Sources say movement on the bill then stalled due to the pandemic and pending police reform legislation.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo’s office offered no comment on advocates’ call to take up the bill other than to say it remains under consideration by the Judiciary Committee.
Senate President Emerita Harriette Chandler, who sponsored the bill in the Senate, said its passage would be a “fitting tribute” to Ginsburg.
“You know, she said a right is not truly a right until everyone can access it,” said Chandler. She said a wonderful way to honor Ginsburg would be “by removing the politically motivated barriers to abortion care that deny the people in our state to safe and legal abortion care.”
Fall River Rep. Patricia Haddad and Boston Rep. Jay Livingstone co-sponsored the House version of the bill.
Republican Gov. Charlie Baker has expressed concerns over the legislation, and is opposed to late-term abortion.
Massachusetts Citizens for Life, which strongly opposes the bill, issued a statement saying it is looking to the Supreme Court – and Ginsburg’s replacement – to reverse abortion rights rulings.
“We are confident that whomever President Trump nominates as Justice Ginsburg’s replacement will share our life-affirming values and align them with our country’s founding documents; that he or she will believe, as we do, that human rights begin in the womb; and that states’ rights should weigh heavily in matters such as the legality of and limits on abortion,” the organization said in a statement.The battle over Ginsburg’s seat has quickly turned into high-decibel partisan warfare that threatens to overshadow other issues in the presidential race. Trump has said he will nominate a new justice later week. With the election only weeks away, Democrats say the nomination should be made by the winner of the presidential contest, citing the Republican-controlled Senate’s refusal to consider President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland in 2016, which came nine months before a presidential election.
Gena Frank, political director for the pro-choice group NARAL, said that in a time of “grave uncertainty” over the make-up of the Supreme Court, Massachusetts should step forward to guarantee abortion rights in the state. “Our current laws don’t reflect our values or stress the overwhelming support for abortion care — and that must change,” she said.