House Democratic leaders plan to reject Gov. Charlie Baker's proposed changes to abortion access language, slamming the Republican governor's amendment as undermining their attempt to improve reproductive health care in Massachusetts.
Four days after Baker sent the abortion-related section of the fiscal year 2021 budget bill back to the Legislature, House Speaker Robert DeLeo announced he would seek a vote Wednesday to turn back the governor's proposal.
"On Wednesday, the House will act to overturn the Administration's amendment, which sought to erode the reproductive health protections the Legislature last month voted to put in place for Massachusetts," DeLeo said in a statement. "The House will vote in favor of safeguarding women's reproductive rights in the Commonwealth at a time when they are under threat due to the new composition of the United States Supreme Court."
The House and Senate agreed on a significant expansion of abortion access, in part based on legislation known as the ROE Act, in the annual spending bill they sent to Baker. Representatives voted 108-49 in favor of adding abortion language to the budget, narrowly clearing a two-thirds majority that would become necessary to enact the original proposal over a potential veto.
In a letter explaining his proposed amendment on Friday, Baker said he would not support reducing the age to access abortion without parental or judicial consent from 18 to 16 as the Legislature proposed.
While he agreed with allowing abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy in cases of fatal fetal anomalies, he suggested tightening language to allow the procedure that late when continued pregnancy poses a "substantial risk" to a patient's physical or mental health rather than to "preserve" health.
"The response that we made to the amendment and the budget was designed to respond to a number of the issues that we felt needed to be addressed by a continued decision to expand access. And the proposal we made, if enacted, would give Massachusetts some of the broadest and most significant reproductive health rights in the United States," Baker said Tuesday when asked about DeLeo's announcement. "In many cases, we actually sided with sort of the tone and tenor of the House language during the course of that debate. I haven't heard anything with respect to [the House's plan], but obviously, we'll see how this all plays out."