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Mass. political leaders slam Supreme Court for allowing Texas abortion law to remain in force

Leen Garza participates in a protest against the six-week abortion ban at the Capitol in Austin, Texas, on Wednesday.
Leen Garza participates in a protest against the six-week abortion ban at the Capitol in Austin, Texas, on Wednesday.Jay Janner/Associated Press

Politicians in Massachusetts on Thursday blasted the US Supreme Court for allowing a highly restrictive abortion law in Texas to stand, dashing the hopes of abortion providers and others who’d filed an emergency appeal with the high court asking the panel to block the measure.

“The data is clear: the majority of Americans support #RoeVWade,” US Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Cambridge Democrat and former presidential candidate, tweeted on Thursday morning, following the high court’s 5-4 decision allowing the law to stand. “With SCOTUS conservatives refusing to defend 50 years of legal precedent, Congress needs to step up and codify Roe into federal law.”

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Warren’s tweet came after the Supreme Court rejected efforts to block the law, which took effect Wednesday and prohibits abortions once medical professionals can detect cardiac activity, usually around six weeks and before many women know they’re pregnant.

But in issuing their decision, the high court justices also suggested their order probably isn’t the last word on whether the law can stand because additional challenges can still be brought.

“It’s clear that SCOTUS & anti-choice state legislatures will stop at nothing to ban abortion care,” tweeted US Representative Ayanna Pressley, a Boston Democrat and member of the so-called “Squad” of progressive female lawmakers. “Congress must proactively legislate reproductive justice & affirm abortion care as the human right that it is.”

Pressley elaborated in a statement.

She said the high court’s ruling makes it clear that “the Court is not on the side of the people and Congress must step up.”

Pressley continued, “In this moment where anti-choice state legislatures and a co-opted Supreme Court will stop at nothing to ban abortion care, we must proactively legislate reproductive justice and meaningfully advance policies that affirm that abortion care is a fundamental human right.”

Pressley added that Congress must pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, which she said would ban “harmful” state laws like the Texas measure.

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“We must use every tool at our disposal to protect the bodily autonomy of all people — regardless of income, gender identity, or race — and we’re not backing down in this fight,” Pressley said.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, meanwhile, tweeted out words of encouragement to supporters of abortion rights feeling discouraged by the high court’s move.

“Here’s the thing about basic human rights—there may be people in power who want to take them away from you, but there are many more who quite literally will never give up until every American can access safe, legal abortion,” Healey wrote. “Don’t despair, but do check in on your friends and family in Texas. There are people there right now who are being forced into pregnancy by a gerrymandered, disenfranchising legislature and a stolen Supreme Court. It’s gut wrenching. It should never have gotten to this point.”

Senator Ed Markey, a Malden Democrcat, also struck a note of outrage in the wake of the high court ruling.

“The Supreme Court has thrown the door wide open to Roe v. Wade being struck down,” Markey said in a statement Thursday. “This ruling cannot be the last word in our fight to protect reproductive freedom, health care, and rights in America. Senate Democrats have the power to fix this problem right now by abolishing the filibuster and passing my legislation to expand the Supreme Court.”

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Democrats, Markey said, “also must act swiftly to pass federal legislation to protect access to legal abortion care for millions of Americans, like the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2021, which would safeguard against bans like this and unnecessary medical barriers. We have seen what the Republicans will do in ultra-conservative state legislatures across country to quash the constitutional rights of Americans, and this ruling needs to be an urgent call to action for my Senate Democratic colleagues.”

Jesse Mermell, who worked as an aide to former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick, tweeted Thursday that the high court ruling illustrates why the panel should be expanded beyond its current nine justices.

“Taking shelter in a basement during a tornado warning while reading about #SCOTUS taking a sledge hammer to #abortion access sums up 2021, alright,” tweeted Mermell, a former congressional candidate, at 1:35 a.m. Thursday. She tweeted at 7:40 a.m. that expanding the court is “essential to the preservation of our democracy.”

Former congressman Joe Kennedy III, a Newton Democrat, also had harsh words for the Texas law Thursday morning.

“It’s hard to capture the hurt & hell that the TX abortion ban will unleash,” Kennedy tweeted. “The ones who will bear the brunt are the ones who always do: low income & women/pregnant ppl of color who can’t afford to hop a plane to access their constitutionally protected right to bodily autonomy.”

The reactions of Massachusetts Democratic luminaries stood in stark contrast Thursday to supporters of the Texas law, including Penny Nance, chief executive officer and president of Concerned Women for America, a conservative advocacy group.

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“It is telling to see the abortion industry’s angry reaction to the Supreme Court’s refusal to play interference between the Left’s radical ideas and the American people,” Nance said in a statement. “Texas’ heartbeat law was properly debated and passed with bi-partisan support. Texas Women want this law.”

Nance added that the law’s opponents, “as usual,” are pushng “for judicial activists to do for them what they couldn’t do through the proper legislative process. ... We are thankful for a Supreme Court that knows its role and refuses to be manipulated in this way, letting the democratic process continue instead. Bottom line, babies are being saved in Texas today. We know that makes for a rainy day for the Left, but most Americans rejoice. That’s the headline.”

CJ Doyle, executive director of the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts, also praised the high court Thursday.

“As Roe v. Wade was a constitutional fiction---even Justice Harry Blackmun’s own law clerk, Edward Lazarus, used the term ‘indefensible’ to describe it---the Supreme Court decided appropriately in allowing the Texas Heartbeat Law to stand,” Doyle said in a statement.

Lazarus was quoted in the Washington Examiner as saying that Roe “borders on the indefensible.”

Prior to 1973, Doyle continued, “abortion law was a matter for the elected legislatures of the fifty states. Now, some of those elected representatives of the people are reasserting their democratic authority against a half century of clumsy, heavy handed and constitutionally dubious intrusions by an overconfident, unelected and unaccountable federal judiciary.”

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Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.


Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.