Six mayors of Massachusetts cities gathered outside the State House on Tuesday morning to demand action on a bill expanding access to abortion, saying Massachusetts should continue to be a leader on health care.
“This is a state that’s led the way on health care reform. This is a state that has led the way for reproductive freedoms for women and women’s health,” said Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, who said efforts by the Trump administration and other state Legislatures to roll back abortion rights are endangering women’s health. “We’re not going to stand for that here in Massachusetts.”
Framingham Mayor Yvonne Spicer said women of color are the ones affected when abortion access is limited.
“These are the women that will probably suffer if this does not move forward,” she said. “It is so critically important that each and every one of us stand up, stand up for all women, and I am proud of my brothers behind me that see the importance because each and every one of them, their voice is amplified right along with mine.”
Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera echoed her concerns, saying: “For a person who represents many young women of color, many poor women in my community, any impediment to safe and legal abortion is really a risk to health in my whole community,” he said.
As states such as Mississippi and Alabama have tried to restrict abortion and the president has sought to overturn Roe v. Wade, the ruling that made it legal, Massachusetts is considering a bill that codifies reproductive freedom into state law. Called the Roe Act, the bill would remove restrictions that are not currently enforced, such as a 24-hour waiting period to have an abortion.
It would also make abortion available to more women in additional circumstances. For instance, it would lift the age limit that currently requires any woman under 18 to get parental consent or a judge’s order to get an abortion. And it would lift the deadline that now confines abortions to 24 weeks gestation — though only for pregnancies threatened by fatal fetal anomalies.
Currently, a woman who is told after 24 weeks that her baby is not going to survive must still carry the pregnancy to term — unless she has the resources to travel to a state such as Colorado where a later abortion is legal.
“When somebody has to leave Massachusetts to get health care, something’s wrong with that piece of health care,” Rivera said.
“I am pretty sure — in fact, very sure — that there is not a man here that drives 100 miles to have treatment for his prostate,” Easthampton Mayor Nicole LaChapelle said. “I have constituents in Easthampton who are driving to Connecticut, upstate New York, to get basic information and a choice that only they deserve to make.”
NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts have pushed for the bill, and they joined the mayors outside the State House. The Massachusetts Democratic Party recently endorsed the measure through a resolution at its convention.
The bill has not made progress, however, and has been feverishly fought by abortion opponents. Some lawmakers have balked at the lifting of an age limit for abortion and voiced discomfort with the idea of girls as young as 12 get abortions without telling their parents. Though Massachusetts is considered a liberal state, where a majority of lawmakers and voters alike support abortion rights, the Legislature appears to be stalled.
“This is an opportunity for us to actually act like the most progressive state in the United States,” Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone said.
A total of 17 mayors signed on to support the Roe Act, including the mayors of Worcester, Cambridge, Newton, Salem, Holyoke, Malden, Medford, Melrose, Beverly, Newburyport, New Bedford, and Northampton.