Mass. Senate Approves Abortion Access Amendment, 33-7

The Massachusetts State House and Flag. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
The Massachusetts state flag flies in front of the State House. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Language codifying and expanding abortion access rights in Massachusetts is virtually guaranteed to land on Gov. Charlie Baker's desk after the Senate voted 33-7 to add the major policy changes into its fiscal year 2021 budget.

Six days after the House approved a similar amendment during its budget process, the Senate followed suit on Wednesday after about two hours of commentary.

The amendment makes clear in state law that abortions are legal in Massachusetts, allows abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy in cases with a diagnosed fatal fetal anomaly, and lowers the age above which a woman does not need parental or court approval for the procedure from 18 to 16.

All four Republican senators — Bruce Tarr, Ryan Fattman, Patrick O'Connor and Dean Tran — voted against the amendment, as did Democrats Michael Rush, Walter Timilty and John Velis.

The Senate's margin was wider than the 108-49 vote in the House, but both exceed a two-thirds majority, indicating that Democratic leaders likely have the numbers they would need to override a potential gubernatorial veto. Baker has not said if he will veto the amendment, but last week criticized the inclusion of the policy rider in the budget.

Republicans and some Democrats bristled at including the provisions in the overdue state budget, which is virtually assured of reaching the governor's desk, rather than as a standalone piece of legislation, particularly after Democratic leaders indicated they wanted to steer clear of major policy issues during debate on the spending plan.

Supporters argued, though, that the matter warranted immediate action following the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who is viewed by pro-choice advocates as an opponent to the precedent set in Roe v. Wade.

"The time has come for urgent action," said Senate President Emerita Harriette Chandler, who sponsored the amendment. "I believe in an affirmative right to choose, but this right now hangs in the balance. Those of us who remember the days before legal abortion and contraception must unite with those of us who never knew those dark times to protect this right at all costs."



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