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Massachusetts House votes to expand abortion access

The Massachusetts House of Representatives voted Thursday to allow patients 16 years and older to seek an abortion without parental consent and make the procedure legal after 24 weeks for fetuses with a fatal abnormality. 

A protester dressed as a handmaid stands outside the Massachusetts State House in support of the Act to Remove Obstacles and Expand Abortion Access on Oct. 25. The Massachusetts House of Representatives will vote on a budget amendment this week that, if passed, will expand abortion access. SHANNON DAMIANO/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Prior laws required patients under 18 years old to have consent from their guardian or get permission from a judge before recieving an abortion. Patients younger than 16 will now have the ability to petition a judge for permission.

A fetus diagnosed with a fatal abnormality will likely die before or within 28 days of birth, according to the International Society for Prenatal Diagnosis.

Massachusetts Rep. Claire Cronin of Easton proposed the change as Amendment 759 to the 2021 fiscal year budget.

The death of Justice [Ruth Bader] Ginsburg, coupled with the recent Supreme Court appointment,” Cronin wrote in a statement, “contributed to a renewed and significant push for legislative action to ensure that women continue to have access to safe reproductive health care in Massachusetts.”

Cronin read testimony from individuals and organizations and met with more than 120 House members regarding women’s health care access over the last 18 months, according to the statement.

Misha Pangasa, an OB-GYN at Massachusetts General Hospital, said Roe v. Wade established the 24-week point as a significant point in fetal development.

The Supreme Court case, decided in 1973, defined the 24-week mark as the “point of viability” for fetuses, or the time at which the fetus may survive on its own outside of the mother.

C.J. Williams, director of community engagement at Massachusetts Citizens for Life, said the amendment was unnecessarily added to the budget.  

“It’s an underhanded way of pushing it on their constituents who continually oppose it,” Williams said.

Williams said she believes the amendment serves more to push an agenda than to further abortion rights.

NARAL — or National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws — Pro-Choice Massachusetts wrote in a statement it appreciates Cronin’s advocacy for reproductive freedom. 

“When Massachusetts voters reelected every incumbent who supported the ROE Act and also voted out anti-abortion legislators,” the group wrote, “they made it clear that they want state lawmakers to remove medically unnecessary barriers to abortion care.”

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