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Mass. Senate votes to expand abortion access, rejects governor’s amendments

State Senator Harriette Chandler: "Today, we will make the world just a bit fairer for every person who faces this difficult choice."
State Senator Harriette Chandler: "Today, we will make the world just a bit fairer for every person who faces this difficult choice."David L. Ryan/File 2018

The Massachusetts Senate voted overwhelmingly Friday to reject Governor Charlie Baker’s changes to their measure expanding abortion access.

With only eight of 40 members voting to adopt the governor’s amendments, the Senate returned the measure in its original form to the governor’s desk.

The House had also rejected the governor’s changes on Wednesday. The same day, the governor declined to indicate what action he might take, telling reporters: “We’ll see what happens on that; the process is obviously still going forward.”

With his efforts to make his mark on the measure dashed, Baker faces three options: He could veto the measure outright. He could sign it into law. Or he could decline to sign it, and allow it to become law without his signature.

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Baker, a Republican, supports abortion rights, but said in his original message to the Legislature he could not support a provision lowering the age at which someone could get an abortion without parental consent from 18 to 16. He also altered other language passed by legislators.

The Massachusetts Republican Party had campaigned against the legislation, blasted its abortion provisions, and criticized Democrats for passing the controversial policy measure as part of the state budget.

Still, the measure gained enough support in each chamber to override a veto, and activists who had pushed for the expansion of abortion access encouraged the governor to sign it, based on the strength of its support.

“We hope he listens to the overwhelming majority of his constituents who support these measures and signs them into law,” said the Roe Act Coalition, led by the ACLU of Massachusetts, NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, and Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts, in a statement. “These anti-abortion laws no longer reflect our values in Massachusetts and they don’t reflect the lived realities of many people. It’s time for the Commonwealth to trust women and pregnant people.”

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The language would codify the right to an abortion, which has been guaranteed by the court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade since 1973. It also would lower the age threshold for obtaining an abortion from 18 to 16 years old, requiring anyone younger to obtain parental consent or an order from a judge for the procedure. And it would allow abortions after 24 weeks if there is a “lethal fetal anomaly,” or if the fetus is incompatible with sustained life outside the uterus.

“Today, we will make the world just a bit fairer for every person who faces this difficult choice,” said Senator Harriette Chandler, a Worcester Democrat, before the vote.

Thirty-two Senators voted to restore the original language they had sent to the governor. The chamber’s four Republicans voted in favor of Baker’s changes, along with four Democrats: Nick Collins and Michael Rush of Boston, Walter F. Timilty of Milton, and John C. Velis of Westfield.



Stephanie Ebbert can be reached at Stephanie.Ebbert@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @StephanieEbbert.