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Massachusetts Senate Overrides Veto, Passes Law Expanding Abortion Access

Women's rights activists, including Jane Marcus of Medford, pictured in May, have been urging the legislature to pass a law that codifies abortion rights in state law.
Women's rights activists, including Jane Marcus of Medford, pictured in May, have been urging the legislature to pass a law that codifies abortion rights in state law.

The Massachusetts state Senate joined the state House of Representatives Tuesday in passing legislation that enshrines abortion rights in state law and expands access to 16-year-olds. The move by the two chambers overrides Gov. Charlie Baker's veto of the measure last week.

The ROE Act, as it's called, will allow abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy in cases with a fatal fetal anomaly and in instances when a physician deems it necessary "to preserve the patient's physical or mental health."

It also lowers the age at which individuals can seek an abortion without the consent of a parent or a judge from 18 to 16.

Sen. Harriette Chandler, who was behind one of the bills, said she was proud of the legislature's actions to secure "reproductive freedoms" for residents.

"Pregnant people who once faced near-insurmountable barriers accessing abortion care can now seize the right to control their own bodies," Chandler said in a tweet Tuesday.

The ROE Act Coalition, which coordinated a statewide effort to pass the new law, celebrated the Senate vote, calling it a victory and a major milestone.

"With the ROE Act provisions now law, most young adults seeking abortion will be able to access the care and support they need without navigating the court system, and pregnant people facing a fatal fetal diagnosis later in pregnancy will be able to access abortion care here in Massachusetts, with a provider they know and trust, rather than traveling across the country for care," organizers said in a statement.

Gov. Baker vetoed the bill on Christmas Eve after the legislature rejected his revisions. In a letter to lawmakers, the Republican governor said he "strongly" supports the 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, State House News Service reported.

He also agreed that a 24-hour waiting period before an abortion is unnecessary. However, he objected to revisions to the law that removed legal barriers for minors seeking to terminate a pregnancy.

"I cannot support the sections of this proposal that expand the availability of later term abortions and permit minors age 16 and 17 to get an abortion without the consent of a parent or guardian," Baker wrote.

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