A group of Massachusetts mayors gathered around the State House steps on Tuesday to publicly declare their support for the ROE Act, which strives to improve abortion accessibility.
Among them was Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, BC ’09; Mayor Yvonne Spice of Framingham; Mayor Dan Rivera of Lawrence; Mayor Nicole LaChapelle of East Hampton; Mayor Joseph Curtatone of Somerville; and Mayor Donna Holaday of Newburyport. The day marked the release of a letter signed by 20 Massachusetts mayors to show their support for reproductive rights in Massachusetts, despite ongoing debates about abortion access in other states.
“Massachusetts has always led the fight for the rights and freedoms, especially when it comes to health care, and that’s quite honestly why we’re here today,” Walsh said.
The ROE Act seeks to provide safe and accessible abortions to those who need them. Headed by Senator Harriette Chandler of Worcester, the petition will work to eliminate government interference with abortions up to and following 24 weeks of pregnancy.
“The Commonwealth shall not interfere with a person’s personal decision and ability to prevent, commence, terminate, or continue their own pregnancy consistent with this chapter,” the petition states.
Under current Massachusetts law, women are able to have abortions following 24 weeks of pregnancy if the mother’s life is in danger or if the physical or mental health of the mother is in danger. The ROE Act seeks to remove any unnecessary restrictions that may prevent safe and reliable access to an abortion.
“The ROE Act is important because it is really working to make sure that we have a pure safety net for young people who are looking to access abortion and other … reproductive health care services,” said Whitney Taylor, the political director of the American Civil Liberties Union Massachusetts.
Massachusetts law mandates that people under 18 seeking an abortion must either obtain parental consent for an abortion or have a judge of the superior court determine that they are mature enough to consent to an abortion, a practice the ROE Act aims to amend.
“The current process that young people have to go through is scary,” Taylor said. “It has nothing to do with the medical system. It has nothing to do with doctors or healthcare professionals. It has to do with the courts and the government.”
Spicer spoke of the importance in providing government support for more accessible abortions.
“This is a human right,” Spicer said. “Women’s right to control their own bodies is their right with the guidance of their doctors. It is so critically important that each and every one of us stand up—stand up for all women.”
Many people in East Hampton have described having to drive to surrounding states for reproductive health care, LaChapelle said, maintaining that the ROE Act is not only about abortion, but also safe reproductive health care.
“This is not just about one health care choice, this is about something a choice that a woman deserves, that will affect the rest of her life if denied,” the East Hampton mayor said. “I have constituents in East Hampton, who are driving to Connecticut, upstate New York, to get basic information and a choice that only they deserve to make.”
The ROE Act and the support that has rallied around it comes on the heels of a petition that could effectively stop state-funded abortions. The initiative petition that counteracts the ROE Act, spearheaded by Thomas Harvey—a chairman of the Massachusetts Alliance to Stop Taxpayer Funded Abortions—must receive over 80,000 signatures by Massachusetts registered voters by the first Wednesday of December to move foward in the legislative process.
“It’s the first step in trying to make this state pro-life,” Harvey said in an interview with The Heights in September.
The ROE Act is further backed by ACLU Massachusetts, Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, and NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts.
Featured Image by Isabella Cavazzoni / Heights Editor