In the latest move from Massachusetts state legislators to block abortion restrictions and expand access to the procedure, state Sen. Harriet Chandler has introduced a bill that would remove the longstanding requirement for teens to obtain parental consent before getting an abortion.
Currently, Massachusetts state law requires that minors obtain the consent of a parent or guardian before getting an abortion, a rule that can only be bypassed if the minor is granted permission for the abortion by a state judge.
The bill, entitled “An Act to remove obstacles and expand abortion access,” would also grant physicians the right to perform an abortion on a patient who is past 24 weeks of pregnancy if it “is necessary to protect the patient’s life or physical or mental health, or in cases of lethal fetal anomalies, or where the fetus is incompatible with sustained life outside the uterus.”
The bill also seeks to establish a state right to an abortion, which would stand even if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned. Roe v. Wade is the 1973 Supreme Court decision mandating legal abortion nationwide.
“The Commonwealth shall not interfere with a person’s personal decision and ability to prevent, commence, terminate, or continue their own pregnancy consistent with this chapter. The Commonwealth shall not restrict the use of medically appropriate methods of abortion or the manner in which medically appropriate abortion is provided,” the bill states.
Those in favor of abortion have ramped up efforts to protect and expand the procedure in light of Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court in 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump’s second appointment to the court.
Sen. Chandler, 82, told NPR that she believes the bill in part anticipates what could happen if Roe v. Wade were overturned.
“I think if people realize what a post-Roe world would be, that would make it even more reasonable to do this bill,” she said.
Pro-life advocates told NPR that laws requiring parental consent in the case of minors seeking abortions is meant as a protective measure for the minor as well as her unborn child.
“In our laws, we need to do as much as we can - especially given the kind of epidemic abuse that we're facing - to interrupt that cycle,” David Franks, chairman of the board of the group Massachusetts Citizens for Life, told NPR.
Michael New, a visiting professor of political science and social research at The Catholic University of America, said in testimony against the new bill that the parental consent restriction has helped to save an estimated 10,000 - 44,000 lives since the enactment of the current law.
“...every peer-reviewed study I have seen, 16 in total, finds that state-level parental involvement laws reduce the in-state abortion rate for minors,” he said in his testimony.
“I think most people are uncomfortable with minor girls obtaining abortions without their parent's knowledge," he added to NPR.
Twenty-five other states have similar laws to current Massachusetts law, regarding parental consent for minors seeking an abortion. Some such laws have faced added scrutiny in recent years.
In August of last year, a federal appeals court upheld an injunction against part of an Indiana law that allowed judges to notify parents if their daughter is seeking to have an abortion without their consent. In 2017, a federal judge struck down an Alabama law requiring more scrutiny for minors seeking to procure abortions through judges. The law would have allowed for hearings on the maturity level of the minor in question, and for her parents or guardians to partake in the proceedings if they found out about them.
The Massachusetts bill also comes roughly 6 months after the state’s passage of the “NASTY Women” abortion act, which repealed an 1845 ban on “procuring a miscarriage.” The full title of the act is the “Negating Archaic Statutes Targeting Young Women Act,” a reference to a comment made by then-candidate Donald Trump about Hillary Clinton during a presidential candidates debate on Oct. 19, 2016.
A Massachusetts state law prohibiting protests and prayer vigils within a 35-foot “buffer zone” of an abortion facility was unanimously struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2014.