- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 2, 2020

Pro-life advocates in Massachusetts are hoping a bill to remove parental consent requirements for minors seeking abortions will remain stalled through the end of the legislative term, but are bracing for a fight if the so-called ROE Act reemerges.

“Massachusetts already has a law in place permitting abortions under pretty liberal circumstances,” James F. Driscoll, executive director of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, told The Washington Times. “We’re not in favor of the current law … but there is no need to make it [abortion] even more accessible.”

The Act to Remove Obstacles and Expand Abortion Access (ROE) would allow the procedure after 24 weeks in order to preserve the health or life of the mother and in the case of fatal fetal abnormalities.

Introduced early last year by Democratic state Sen. Harriett L. Chandler, the bill has been stalled since a hearing the Senate Judiciary Committee in June.

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker and several pro-life groups oppose the legislation.

Polls show that many residents have soured on the most controversial provision in the bill — removing parental consent for minors seeking an abortion.

Currently, 13 states do not require any parental consent or notification for minors seeking an abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research nonprofit that supports reproductive rights.

Massachusetts currently requires a parent to consent to a minor undergoing an abortion. In lieu of a parent’s consent, a girl can seek a judicial review process.

Pro-choice advocates say they fear abortion access could be whittled away by the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative majority.

“What we’re looking for in this bill is safe, legal abortions,” Rebecca Hart, executive director of NARAL Massachusetts, told The Telegram & Gazette in June. “We’ve come such a long way. But there was always the possibility we would go back to the pre-Roe v. Wade days.”

Roe v. Wade is the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.

Massachusetts has enacted some of the broadest abortion rights legislation in the country.

But the ROE Act has hit snags. The state’s four Roman Catholic bishops issued a statement opposing the bill, and Mr. Baker told reporters he had “concerns” about broad legalization for late-term abortion.

Bill opponents cite a 2019 poll by the Republican polling firm Tarrance Group that found 62% of voters believe the parental consent should be required for a girl seeking an abortion.

“If legislators pass the ROE Act, parents would still have to consent to a flu shot for their 12-year-old daughter but not an abortion,” Myrna Maloney Flynn, president of the Massachusetts Citizens for Life, told The Washington Times.

Last year marked a tumultuous year for abortion legislation across the country, with 17 states constricting access to abortion and nine states confirming or expanding access.

Any new legislation in Massachusetts must be introduced by Feb. 2.

• Christopher Vondracek can be reached at cvondracek@washingtontimes.com.

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