Abortion advocates and adversaries crowd hallways on Beacon Hill
With An Act to Remove Obstacles and Expand Abortion Access before the Massacusetts Joint Committee on the Judiciary on Monday, legislative officials, medical professionals, advocates, and others testified in support of the bill’s aim to make access to the right to choose possible for any Massachusetts resident regardless of age, income, or ethnicity.
Hundreds made their way to Beacon Hill to show their support, crowding hallways and multiple overflow rooms. Lines for the security check stretched out of entrances and onto sidewalks, with a heavy turnout from opposing sides of the debate arriving on their own and en masse. From “Pro-Life” signs to pink “Abortion is Healthcare” T-shirts, the public’s passion was on full display.
Bill sponsors Sen. Harriette L. Chandler, Rep. Jay Livingstone, and Rep. Patricia Haddad spoke first, accompanied and followed by a legion of lawmakers from all across the Commonwealth.
“The organized opposition to this legislation makes the conscious choice to lie because medical and legal facts do not fit their narrative,” Chandler said. “They have chosen to incite fear and try to intimidate. They use mistruth as a weapon to defeat a bill that protects many and empowers the vulnerable, but intimidation won’t work with me.”
Chandler’s words, as well as those of other sponsors and advocates, were met with roars and cheers from spectators throughout the State House.
Dr. Luu Ireland, a gynecologist with UMass Memorial Health Care, shared a personal experience relative to the current requirement in Mass that individuals younger than 18 years old must obtain parental consent for the procedure.
“My last patient who was forced to go through judicial bypass was in foster care, which meant she had no choice but to go before a judge,” Ireland said. “It didn’t matter that she was already a parent desperately trying to finish high school to give herself and her child a different and better life. … By the time she was permitted to obtain her abortion, she was beyond the gestational age. … The law took away her right and ability to decide how to end her pregnancy.”
Several bills came before the committee throughout the afternoon, but the ROE Act was the main event. As advocates and adversaries responded to questioning from joint committee members, the crowd reacted with a mix of cheers and groans. The long list of speakers included Dr. Jennifer Childs-Roshak, a physician and CEO of Planned Parenthood League of Massachusett;, NARAL Pro-Choice MA Executive Director Rebecca Hart Holder; and ACLU of Massachusetts Executive Director Carol Rose.
Despite an understanding between the committee members and advocates on hand that abortion laws in Massachusetts will not reverse in the event that the ROE fails, Chandler explained why the current laws still warrant further reform.
“If this does not pass,” the senator and ROE sponsor said, “one of the concerns that we have is with the recent appointments to the Supreme Court.
“We are concerned about Roe v. Wade at the national level.”