Governor Charlie Baker has vowed to safeguard Planned Parenthood’s funding in the state. His signature last year mandated that Massachusetts women will receive free access to birth control. And he drew national headlines when he signed a law repealing an antiquated state law banning abortion.
But that does not mean the Republican is winning the backing of one of the state’s foremost abortion-rights advocacy groups.
NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts PAC says it is planning to endorse Democrat Jay Gonzalez over the Republican incumbent, arguing that it’s looking for a more forceful advocate for abortion rights and family planning in the corner office.
Gena Frank, the groups’ legislative and political director, said its nonpartisan PAC views Gonzalez as a “bold champion” who stood with the organization at a rally Monday demanding that Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, withdraw amid sexual assault allegations, including a claim he attempted to assault a woman, Christine Blasey Ford, more than three decades ago when they were both teenagers.
“We need vocal champions,” Frank said. “We need vocal champions who are going to stand up for our basic reproductive rights. Making a passing comment when asked, it isn’t enough.”
Frank said Baker has “really failed women and families in multiple ways.” She knocked him for vetoing and returning with an amendment a bill that would have lifted the so-called cap on kids concerning welfare benefits for children born to families already receiving public assistance.
She also pointed to his support of state Representative James Lyons, one of the House’s most conservative members, and his endorsement of the Republican ticket, including state Representative Geoff Diehl, who’s challenging US Senator Elizabeth Warren. Diehl has said he is backing Kavanaugh.
“You can’t sign these bills but also support these people who are actively working to undermine women’s basic rights, and call yourself an ally,” Frank said of Baker. “I have no doubt in my mind that Jay Gonzalez would also guarantee funding and speak out against these things. But he’d be a vocal opponent.”
In a statement, Gonzalez says he is honored to get the backing of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, which he said is “leading the charge here in Massachusetts against the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.”
“I will be an ally to NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts and to women across this state not just some of the time, but all of the time,” he said.
Terry MacCormack, a Baker campaign spokesman, said Monday that Baker has been “proud to forge productive working relationships” with Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts “to protect women’s access to health care and family planning services.”
Indeed, Baker has irked conservatives by pledging to replace Planned Parenthood funding with state money if its federal support is pulled, and last November, signed a bill that will mandate many Massachusetts women receive free access to contraceptives.
In July, he openly challenged a proposed federal rule that would force family planning groups like Planned Parenthood to either stop offering abortions and referring women to abortion providers, or lose a key stream of federal money.
That same month, NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts also applauded him after he signed a law that reversed a 19th-century state law that criminalizes abortion, appearing in a press release distributed by Baker’s office saying it was “grateful” for his actions.