Governor Baker signed onto law a $45.9 billion fiscal 2021 state budget that was approved by the House and Senate and sent to him on December 4. Baker also vetoed and amended several items and cut $156 million in spending on various programs.
Baker supported some of the abortion initiatives in the budget including making abortions available to women after 24 weeks in cases where a doctor has diagnosed a fatal fetal anomaly. He said the budget affirmatively establishes in Massachusetts law a woman’s right to access an abortion and ensures that a woman can access an abortion in cases where the child will not survive after birth. “These are important changes to protect a women’s reproductive rights and autonomy in the commonwealth, and I support them,” said Baker in his message to the Legislature. “However, I cannot support the other ways that this section expands the availability of late-term abortions and permits minors age 16 and 17 to get an abortion without the consent of a parent or guardian.”
The ROE Act Coalition, which includes the ACLU of Massachusetts, NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts and Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts, released a statement saying it is deeply disappointed by Gov. Baker’s failure to recognize the urgent need to improve access to care. “His amendment pushes abortion care out of reach for many, especially for people with low-incomes and communities of color,” said the statement. “Legislators must finish this process true to the spirit with which it began—with a commitment to equitable access to abortion care. [We] urge legislators to reject Gov. Baker’s amendment and send back language that eliminates longstanding, politically motivated barriers to abortion.”
“The governor cannot have it both ways,” continued the statement. He cannot call himself pro-choice and keep anti-choice restrictions in place. Current law in Massachusetts is broken, and this amendment maintains the state’s greatest barriers to care. For decades, medically unnecessary barriers to abortion have sent people out of state, forced young people to go before a judge, and delayed and denied care. Under Gov. Baker’s amendment, these hardships will continue. These barriers disproportionately harm people of color and people with low incomes.”
“I’m glad to see the governor push back on this radical abortion legislation,” said Massachusetts Family Institute President Andrew Beckwith. “Particularly during this Advent season, and in the middle of COVID-19, we should be embracing life, not death, for our unborn children.”
“Although there remains much in this bill with which to take issue, we thank Gov. Baker for the commonsense recommendation to raise the age for consent to abortion to 18,” said Patricia Stewart, executive director of Massachusetts Citizens for Life.
The House and Senate are likely to attempt to override Baker’s veto of lowering the age from 18 to 16 which was approved by apparent veto-proof margins in the House of 108-49 and 33-7 in the Senate. The Legislature has until the 2020 legislative session ends on January 5, 2021 to act on these abortion provisions.