Democratic leaders within the Massachusetts legislature say they will take up abortion rights legislation in the coming days that critics say would allow abortion up until the moment of birth and remove the current protections for babies who survive abortion.
Democratic state Rep. Claire Cronin is proposing a 1,500-word amendment to the budget bill that has the support of House leaders and would replace the current laws on abortion – which describes abortion as the “knowing destruction of the life of an unborn child” – with language friendly to abortion rights. Cronin’s bill describes abortion as “any medical treatment intended to induce the termination of” a pregnancy.
More significantly, Cronin’s amendment would expand abortion rights in the state by removing current restrictions on late-term abortions and requirements to protect babies who survive abortion. Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo, a Democrat, supports the bill.
Abortion is legal in Massachusetts under rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court and the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, but Democratic leaders want to ensure it remains legal if the Supreme Court overturns or limits the impact of Roe v. Wade.
Currently, Massachusetts law allows abortions after 24 weeks only if the pregnancy poses “a substantial risk of grave impairment of” a woman’s “physical or mental health.” Cronin’s amendment weakens that requirement, making it legal after 24 weeks “if it is necessary, in the best medical judgment of the physician, to preserve the patient’s physical or mental health.”
Current Massachusetts law also requires the doctor performing an abortion after 24 weeks to “take all reasonable steps, both during and subsequent to the abortion” to “preserve the life and health of the aborted child.” This includes the “presence of life-supporting equipment.” Cronin’s amendment would strike this language from the law and replace it with language that no longer requires a doctor to save a baby who survives an abortion.
Current law says the doctor “shall take” steps to save a baby who survives an abortion. Cronin’s proposal removes the “shall” language and says the doctor only is enabled to save the baby. Her amendment says a late-term abortion must be performed in a room that has “life-supporting equipment … to enable the physician performing the abortion to take appropriate steps, in keeping with good medical practice and consistent with the procedure being used, to preserve the life and health of a live birth and the patient.”
“The new language states only that there must be ‘life-supporting equipment’ present, and eliminates the requirement for the abortionist to actually USE it,” Massachusetts Citizens for Life said in an analysis.
Cronin’s amendment also removes parental consent for minors ages 16 and 17 and allows non-physicians to perform abortions.
Massachusetts Citizens for Life is urging pro-lifers to call their legislator to oppose the bill.
It is not known if Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican who opposes late-term abortion, would support the amendment. More than 300 Massachusetts pastors signed a letter to Baker this month urging him to oppose the expansion of abortion rights. They called it a “shocking and callous disregard for human life and the importance of parental involvement in the lives of children.”
“You have the power, the duty, to stop this legislation from becoming law in Massachusetts, and we urge you to do so,” the letter from the pastors said.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Jacek Sopotnicki
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.