Massachusetts approved a controversial abortion rights bill Tuesday that pro-lifers call one of the most extreme in the nation due to its language on late-term abortions and on protecting babies who survive an abortion.
The state Senate, by a vote of 32-8, overrode the veto of Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, one day after the state House overrode his veto, 107-46. Democrats control both chambers.
The bill, H.B. 5179, overhauls the state’s abortion laws by expanding access to late-term abortion and striking an old law that required doctors to save the life of a late-term baby who survives an abortion.
“The commonwealth … shall not interfere with a person’s personal decision and ability to prevent, commence, terminate or continue their own pregnancy,” the new law says.
Critics called it the “infanticide bill.”
Specifically, the new law:
- Loosens restrictions on abortions of 24 weeks or more so that women can obtain a late-term abortion “to preserve the patient’s physical or mental health.” The U.S. Supreme Court has defined “health” to allow an abortion for virtually any reason. The new law also allows late-term abortions for “lethal fetal anomaly” or if the “fetus is incompatible with sustained life.”
- Loosens restrictions so nurses can perform abortions of less than 24 weeks.
- Removes a law from the books that said a doctor “shall take all reasonable steps” to “preserve the life and health of the aborted child” in a late-term abortion. The new law nixes this requirement and now only says a late-term abortion must be performed in a room with life-supporting equipment. Under the new law, the doctor is not required to save the baby. (The new law says life-supporting requirement must be present 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.”)
- Removes a parental consent requirement for minors ages 16 and 17.
The Massachusetts Republican Party criticized Democrats for promoting the bill. In a statement, the Massachusetts GOP noted that the House passed the bill on the Day of the Holy Innocents, a day on the Catholic liturgical calendar that marks the slaughter of young male children in Bethlehem as described in Matthew 2:16.
“House Speaker Bob DeLeo picked Dec. 28, a holy day shared by millions in remembrance of the Day of the Holy Innocents, the mass-killing of martyred babies, to force an override vote to pass this sick legislation that effectively legalizes the killing of babies born alive following failed abortions,” the Massachusetts GOP said in a statement. “Speaker DeLeo has proven himself to be a modern-day King Herod and this twisted irony should not be lost on anyone who values living in a humane and compassionate society.”
But Democrats applauded passage of the bill, which they called the Roe Act.
“The Roe Act is now law of the land in Massachusetts,” said Democratic state Sen. Harriette Chandler. “Beginning today, pregnant people who once faced near-insurmountable barriers accessing abortion care can now seize the right to control their own bodies.”
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Erics Photography
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.