Showdown continues over abortion law after Baker veto

The Massachusetts Legislature is heading toward a vote to override Gov. Charlie Baker’s veto of a bill that would have expanded abortion access as advocates on both sides continue to push their goals.
Despite agreeing with key elements of the bill, Baker vetoed legislation Thursday that would codify the right to an abortion in state law and make the procedure in Massachusetts more accessible by expanding access for women after 24 weeks of pregnancy.
The bill known as the Roe Act would also lower the age of consent for an abortion to 16, which the Republican governor said he “cannot support.”
Shortly after, House Speaker Robert DeLeo, a Winthrop Democrat, tweeted, “The House will seek to override the Administration’s veto, which sought to limit the reproductive health protections the Legislature voted last month to put in place.”
The House and Senate are next in session on Monday. The bill passed both houses with supermajorities, meaning that if all the pols who voted in favor of passage continue to back it, they can move the bill into law over Baker’s wishes.
In his letter to lawmakers, Baker said he “strongly” supports a woman’s right to access reproductive health care, including the provision in the bill that would make abortions available after 24 weeks of pregnancy if the fetus would not survive after birth. He also said he supports eliminating the 24-hour waiting period for an abortion and changes to the judicial bypass process to make abortions more accessible to minors who cannot obtain parental consent.
But he moved to veto the access for 16- and 17-year-olds who don’t have parental consent, and he sought to change language around when all women can get abortions after 24 weeks.
A coalition of reproductive rights groups, including Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts, quickly called on the Legislature Thursday to override Baker’s veto. The Roe Act coalition released a statement describing Baker’s veto as “callous and dangerous” to the health and well-being of women in Massachusetts.
“With this veto, the Governor has made plain that he has no problem imposing medically unnecessary barriers that delay and deny care, and forcing families to fly across the country to get compassionate care,” the coalition said.
The conservative Catholic Action League called Baker’s veto “compelling evidence of just how extreme this legislation is,” with Executive Director C. J. Doyle saying, “Governor Baker was correct to veto this amendment. The entire rationale for it was bogus.”
The abortion measure picked up steam following the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Democratic leaders argued that the nomination by President Trump and confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett put the legal right to an abortion established by the landmark Roe v. Wade case in jeopardy, and warranted state-level action.
— Herald wire services contributed to this report.

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