Massachusetts House approved a Budget of $ 46 billion which includes an amendment expanding protections against abortion, despite criticism from some of the most vocal Republican lawmakers.
The House passed the budget late Thursday, 143-14. Several other progressive amendments were quietly rejected in budget negotiations, including eviction protections, a paid sick leave proposal, and a plan to make Governor Charlie Baker appoints a Democrat to the US Senate if Sen Elizabeth Warren was asked to join the Biden administration.
One policy proposal, however, has survived budget negotiations and opposition from Tory members. It was Rep. Claire Cronin’s law to allow certain abortions after 24 weeks, especially if there is a fatal fetal defect, and to allow pregnant women as young as 16 to have an abortion without parental or judicial consent. . It is also the only policy proposal that has had the blessing of House Speaker Robert DeLeo.
“In the wake of the threat to women’s reproductive rights at the national level, I am proud of the House’s vote to remove barriers to women’s reproductive health options and protect the concepts enshrined in Roe v. Wade, ”DeLeo said in a statement. after the vote.
Lawmakers voted to pass the reproductive health amendment, 108-49 in a preventative effort to protect the right to abortion in Massachusetts after Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation. Appointed Conservative by President Donald Trump, Barrett was confirmed by the Senate days before the presidential election to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the United States Supreme Court.
Under the Cronin Amendment, people under the age of 16 can have an abortion with parental consent or through a court hearing, in person or by teleconference. Supporters of the proposal noted that 16 is the age of consent in Massachusetts. The provision has similar wording to the ROE Act which was tabled in 2019 by the House by pro Tempore President Patricia Haddad and Representative Jay Livingstone.
“Nothing is easy about it. This is a touching question for everyone on all sides of this question, and for many of you, including me, you are called to act on something that may be contrary to the teachings of your faith, ”he said. said Cronin, a Democrat from Easton. . “I understand that. But I remind you that one of our core American values is that we recognize and value the separation of church and state, and to be an elected leader you have to have the ability to do that. “
The amendment was one of the most closely watched proposals, tied to a historically overdue budget of $ 46 billion, which was held up by a pandemic– a recession and an expectation of a congressional deal on COVID-19 relief that never materialized.
Republicans and at least one Democrat stressed that the Speaker’s support for the abortion rights amendment went against previous statements he had made, suggesting the budget was not the right place for a political debate.
“It is disrespectful to all members of this institution, regardless of your position on this issue,” said House Minority Leader Brad Jones, who posted an article indicating that DeLeo did not welcome. policy proposals in the budget process. He also criticized the speaker’s efforts to push an abortion right proposal into the lame duck session.
Rep. Michael Soter, a Republican from Bellingham, said he spoke with a heavy heart thinking about the children who would not be there to be adopted by loving parents, as his daughter was by him and his wife.
“It’s not about right against left. It is not about depriving a woman of the right to choose. Let me assure my friends on the other side, there is currently no bill tabled alongside us to take away women’s rights, ”Soter said.
Alyson Sullivan, a Republican from Abington, asked why not wait until the stand-alone bill has more debate.
Representative Colleen Garry, a Democrat from Dracut, said she doesn’t see the logic behind letting 16-year-olds have abortions if they can’t smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol or vote . She also referred to the Senate passing a bill to end child marriage in Massachusetts.
“If a child cannot legally marry, I don’t know how he can participate in a very emotional and very dangerous situation,” she said.
Haddad, a major sponsor of the ROE law, said changing the age of consent would help reduce barriers for poor, non-white teens.
“We know our parental consent laws disproportionately affect low income communities and communities of color,” said the Somerset Democrat. “It is untenable and frankly unfair.”
Representative Ruth Balser, a Democrat from Newton, said she recalled hearing of women who had died from illegal abortions before the Roe vs. Wade decision. She urged lawmakers not to give the Supreme Court a chance to overturn reproductive health laws that have allowed people to terminate pregnancies safely and legally.
“I want Massachusetts to make sure that no matter what happens in Washington, women in Massachusetts are assured of having access to reproductive health care and that Massachusetts will continue to advocate for equality for all people in the Commonwealth” , Balser said.
Rebecca Hart Holder, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, told MassLive earlier this week that she was optimistic about the ability of the amendment to pass despite some resistance in Massachusetts.
“It’s clearly time to push this legislation forward and bring Massachusetts out of the 1970s on abortion law,” she said.
Senate Speaker Karen Spilka told reporters Thursday morning that she expected to see a similar amendment to the Senate budget plan tabled Thursday.
“We’ll see what the House does, but I would expect one of the Senate Speakers to cause the bill to similarly table something on our side,” said Spilka, a Democrat from Ashland. “We’ll see what amendments are tabled and take it from there.”