Seizing on concerns that abortion rights will be overturned by a now solidly conservative US Supreme Court, activists on Tuesday night reignited their campaign to protect and expand legal protections in Massachusetts.
US Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward J. Markey, both Democrats, joined reproductive rights advocates in an online rally, saying the US Senate’s swift confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett this week demanded action from the state.
“Barrett is an active and a vocal threat to reproductive health and rights,” Markey said. “With another anti-abortion justice confirmed to a lifetime appointment, the right and ability to access safe, legal abortion will almost certainly be left to the states.
Barrett, who views the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia as her mentor, gave little indication in her confirmation hearings last week how she would rule on abortion. However, she is a conservative Catholic who once signed onto an ad calling for the reversal of Roe and is the third justice nominated by President Trump, who promised to nominate only judges who oppose abortion rights.
“If Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation makes you scared and angry, you are right to be scared and angry,” said Warren.
Warren pointed to 17 abortion-related cases that are a step away from the Supreme Court and could be used to overturn abortion rights.
“If these attacks succeed, they will disproportionately have negative effects for women of color who are already facing some of the most insurmountable barriers to reproductive care,” Warren said.
More than 500 participants joined the event on Zoom, where coordinators urged them to immediately begin contacting their legislators to demand action on the Roe Act. Named for the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that made abortion legal, the bill would codify the provisions of the ruling into state law. (The right to an abortion is also protected under the state constitution, Massachusetts' highest court has ruled.)
The Roe Act would also lift the requirement that minors get the consent of a parent or a judge to get an abortion. And it would also allow women to terminate pregnancies with fatal anomalies after 24 weeks.
In the past few years, as conservative states enacted restrictive laws aimed at challenging Roe in courts, states including New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont expanded their laws to ensure abortion would remain accessible.
Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts and the ACLU launched an effort in early 2019. Thursday will mark 500 days since the Legislature held a hearing on the measure, but no action has been taken. “The bill remains under review by the Joint Committee on the Judiciary," Catherine Williams, a spokeswoman for House Speaker Robert DeLeo.