Last week, the Massachusetts House, in a vote of 143 to 14, approved and sent to the Senate an estimated $46 billion state budget for fiscal year 2021.
He also approved, by a margin of 108 to 49, an amendment that had nothing to do with state finances – a measure that would allow abortions after 24 weeks in cases of fatal fetal abnormalities, and lower the age of 18 to 16 when a minor can choose to have an abortion without parental or judicial consent.
Six days after the House passed its budget amendment, the Senate followed suit, voting 33 to 7 to revamp state abortion laws as a preemptive strike over supposed fears that an even more conservative majority in the U.S. Supreme Court to erode or overturn landmark Roe v Wade Decision.
Proponents say the amendment would ensure that state law explicitly permits abortions, which they say provides an essential safety net if the federal judiciary changes the precedent set by Roe v. Wade.
The amendments from the Democratic-dominated Legislature are based on a bill known as the Roe Act. The two-arm initiatives allow abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy in cases where a fatal fetal abnormality has been diagnosed and lower the age for seeking an abortion without parental or court approval from 18 to 16.
Under current law, women who learn late in pregnancy that their child will not survive outside the womb must leave the state to have an abortion after 24 weeks, which supporters of the legislation say forces many families to choose between carrying an unsustainable pregnancy to term or traveling elsewhere. for their desired care.
We understand the wish of our largely liberal legislators to extend the period beyond 24 weeks for abortions involving terminal medical conditions of the unborn child. This number is a basic tenet of Roe v. Wade.
In this precedent of January 1973, the Supreme Court, in a 7 to 2 decision, declared that the right to abortion is a fundamental freedom which the State must have a very strong interest in limiting.
However, the court also balanced the woman’s interest in abortion with the state’s interest in prenatal life.
The high court ruled that a woman’s right to control her pregnancy prevails up to the point of viability – when the fetus can survive outside the womb. After that point of viability — recognized as beyond 24 weeks — the court ruled that states could ban women from having abortions.
But we cannot understand or condone lawmakers’ attempt to lower the age of consent to abortion to 16.
Obviously, this has nothing to do with concerns about the erosion of current Roe protections. Rather, it is a reckless ploy that could endanger the life of a teenage girl and an unborn child.
To put the action of the Legislative Assembly into perspective, a teenager who just turned 16 and is seeking an abortion cannot even legally drive to her medical destination, because you have to be 16 and a half to ask licensed in that state.
Backers would point out that the legal age of consent in Massachusetts — old enough to engage in sexual activity — is 16.
However, a person under the age of 18 wishing to marry in this state cannot do so without parental consent and judicial approval.
Shouldn’t termination of pregnancy be subject to the same age standard as marriage?
We do, and real or imagined angst over a highly unlikely reversal of established law should not be used as an excuse to take this perilous step.
This amendment would likely survive the Governor’s veto, but we urge Charlie Baker not to endorse this ill-advised act.