Massachusetts Bishops Decry Push for Abortion Expansion

Under House amendment 759, abortions can be performed after 24 weeks in the case of a lethal fetal anomaly and 16 and 17 year-old girls could also have an abortion without parental consent.

Massachusetts Statehouse in Boston's Beacon Hill.
Massachusetts Statehouse in Boston's Beacon Hill. (photo: Wangkun Jia)

BOSTON, Mass. — Catholic bishops in Massachusetts are fighting a state measure to expand legal abortion.

An amendment adopted by the state house on Thursday would allow for abortions in certain circumstances throughout pregnancy, a move the state’s Catholic Conference has said goes “well beyond what is enshrined in state law.”

The amendment to a larger budget bill was adopted by the state house on Thursday by a 108-49 vote, State House News Service reported. A dozen Democrats voted against the amendment, while one Republican voted for it.

Under House amendment 759, abortions can be performed after 24 weeks in the case of a lethal fetal anomaly.

In addition, 16 and 17 year-old girls could also have an abortion without parental consent.

Minors under the age of 16 can obtain a judicial bypass waiver to get an abortion without parental consent. A waiver could be granted via teleconference, according to the bill’s sponsor, State House News Service reported.

“The Catholic Church teaches that life itself starts at conception and ends with natural death,” the Massachusetts Catholic Conference stated on Nov. 11 in opposition to the amendment.

Three bishops in the state issued the joint statement — Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, Bishop Robert McManus of Worcester, and Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha of Fall River.

Of the changes to the parental consent law, the bishops said that under the amendment, “a 16 or 17 year old girl would be deprived of the guidance and support of an adult at the time of making this life changing decision.”

The measure does require “life-saving equipment” to be present in the room when an abortion is performed past 24 weeks, but the bishops say that the amendment’s language “is nuanced enough that the physician would not be required to use the equipment” if a baby survived an abortion attempt.

Legislators introduced similar legislation, the “Roe Act,” in 2019 to act as a “trigger law” in the event that Roe v. Wade would be overturned by the Supreme Court. “Trigger laws” either legalize abortions in a state or restrict them, in the event that Roe is overturned and states once again have the authority to ban or allow abortions.

“While we acknowledge the amendment addresses some concerns that were raised about the deeply troubling provisions of the Roe legislation, the fact remains that abortion would remain an option under certain circumstances for the full term of the pregnancy,” the bishops stated.

“That fact alone is in direct conflict with Catholic teaching and must be opposed.”

Once the state senate passes a budget, the senate and house bills will be reconciled in a conference committee, which produces a final report for a final vote by the legislative chambers. Then the final bill is sent to the governor for signature.

House Minority Leader Brad Jones criticized the procedure for using the budget process to pass an abortion amendment.

"I don't care what side of the issue you're on, this being done as part of the budget process in a lame duck session, under the cover of darkness, in the midst of a pandemic is wrong,” Jones said, as reported by State House News Service.

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