Massachusetts Legislature Overrides Governor’s Veto, Allowing Minors to Obtain Abortions without Parental Consent

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker (Greg M. Cooper/Reuters)

Late last month, the Massachusetts legislature voted to override Governor Charlie Baker’s veto of the ROE Act, which will take effect to expand legal abortion in the state. Baker, a Republican who calls himself “pro-choice,” vetoed the ROE Act because it had been crammed into the state budget rather than introduced as stand-alone legislation. He also expressed opposition to some specific provisions of the law, and when lawmakers refused to consider his altered proposal, he vetoed it entirely.

It’s little surprise that even a lawmaker who supports legal abortion might have a problem with the ROE Act, which has made Massachusetts one of the most permissive states in the country when it comes to abortion policy.

The legislation allows abortion for any reason before 24 weeks’ gestation, which is after the point at which an infant can survive outside the womb if delivered. It also removes the requirement that abortions be performed by a doctor; now, a physician’s assistant, nurse practitioner, or midwife also may perform an abortion.

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Perhaps most controversially, the ROE Act alters the state’s parental-involvement law to permit girls as young as 16 to obtain an abortion without acquiring the consent of her parents, or even so much as informing them. Under the previous state law, all minors had to obtain parental consent, unless she obtained permission from a judge via the judicial-bypass process.

As Dr. Michael New has written here at NRO in the past, Massachusetts was one of the first states to require that minors receive parental consent before an abortion, passing a parental-involvement law in 1981. “A 1986 study in the American Journal of Public Health found strong statistical evidence that this parental-involvement law reduced the abortion rate among minors in Massachusetts,” he noted.

Today, proponents of abortion prefer to pretend that parental-consent laws exist merely to subject young girls to conflict with their parents. In reality, such laws are an essential safeguard for minors, especially in cases when a girl might be seeking an abortion after having been sexually assaulted.

Finally, the bill has watered down the state’s requirement that doctors provide care to newborns delivered alive after surviving an attempted abortion procedure. Whereas Massachusetts law had mandated that physicians work to preserve the life and health of any newborn child who survives an abortion, the new language requires on that there be “life-supporting equipment” present in the room — not that the physician actually use that equipment, or any other measures, to care for a newborn.

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