Thank you so much.
We know what we are debating today. It isn’t new. The noise around a woman’s right to choose has grown so loud that we don’t even hear the words properly any more.
The Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision was and is about the right that a woman, any woman has, to make a choice about her own body. How can we see this discussion about reproductive freedom as anything but a statement that women have equal freedom with men to make decisions about their own individual bodies. Decisions they may make with their health care providers, who have scientific, factual information and training.
What on earth are we in government doing when we take up legislation that restricts this freedom? How do we think this is a legitimate purpose of government, to stand in between a woman and her choice?
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg once said “the decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, to her well-being and dignity. It is a decision she must make for herself.”
This is not a decision for a politician to make for his or her constituents. We should not be interjecting ourselves into the most intimate conversations between a doctor and patient. In doing so, we undermine the trust in that relationship and a woman’s right to make her own choices about her health and future. Our state laws need to reflect that deference and clearly demonstrate that we trust and respect women to make these decisions for themselves.
In the wake of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing, the United States Supreme Court lost a crusader for a woman’s right to abortion access. And, her successor, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, simply does not a support a woman’s right to choose.
Since the appointment of Justice Barrett, no less than hundreds of my constituents have come to me alarmed about the future of Roe v. Wade and the implications for women in Massachusetts.
And, they are right to be alarmed. Roe v. Wade and everything it represents is under increasing attack, a coordinated and targeted attack that began all the way back in 1973, when Roe was decided. And, like too many states, our current abortion statutes in Massachusetts are appallingly outdated. Although we receive certain protections through legal precedent, we should not fool ourselves into thinking that this precedent is immune to future legal challenges. Only by codifying abortion access into statute can we ensure that women in Massachusetts will remain protected regardless of federal court action.
Some members have argued that this budget debate isn’t the right vehicle to advance this amendment. To them, I say we cannot let process get in the way of protecting women’s reproductive rights. This is an issue that will benefit women across Massachusetts, whether they be rich, poor, black, white, or brown. Are we to tell these women that we do care about protecting their bodily autonomy, but this just isn’t the right vehicle?
Since Justice Ginsburg’s passing, we are left with a conservative balance in the U.S. Supreme Court. And, it is naïve to expect this conservative majority will defer to precedent when it comes to attacks on Roe.
Our constituents recognize this, which is why they are demanding that the Legislature take action to enshrine these protections as soon as possible. The House already included a similar amendment to their budget. It’s time for us to seize this moment and get this amendment passed.
Notably, today’s amendment revises the outdated language in our existing statute and enshrines many important protections to maintain abortion access in Massachusetts, such as:
Removing the 24-hour waiting period between scheduling and accessing an abortion;
Affirming the right to a safe and legal abortion by allowing abortions after 24 weeks where there is a fatal fetal anomaly;
Explicitly allowing for abortions, before 24 weeks gestation, to be performed by physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and nurse midwives, which is already common practice, but is not in the current statute;
And, lowering the age where judicial or parental consent is required for an abortion from 18 to 16 years old.
I hate to act out of fear, but given the increasingly conservative direction of our federal court system, we really do have to act swiftly to make sure nothing remains on the books that could be used in the future to restrict abortion access. We owe it to our constituents who elected pro-choice legislators, in hopes that in such a moment, we would take a stand to protect their civil liberties. This is such a moment and we need to get this done.