Across the country and Massachusetts, reproductive rights groups are advocating for increased protections for abortion access, as it was recently the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that legalized abortion in the United States, on Jan. 22.
More than 70 organizations rallied for more extensive abortion legislation for Commonwealth residents at the Massachusetts State House on Jan. 17 during Sexual Health Lobby Day, according to a press release from the Coalition for Choice.
The rally was led by NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts, the ACLU of Massachusetts and Massachusetts Family Planning Association.
For the 2019 legislative session, advocates have proposed An Act to Remove Obstacles and Expand Abortion Access, or the ROE Act, which would eliminate needing parental consent for an abortion and improve affordable access by eliminating other provisions.
The bill is sponsored by Massachusetts Senate President Emerita Harriette Chandler, Speaker Pro Tempore Patricia Haddad and State Representative Jay Livingstone.
The ROE Act reforms state law to remove restrictions on abortion, including allowing access to abortion in certain cases of fetal anomalies after the 24-week mark and permitting teenagers to have access to abortion without parental consent.
At the Massachusetts State House on the Sexual Health Lobby Day, Chandler said the bill ensures that women’s healthcare is on the frontlines of the legislative agenda.
“The ROE Act breaks down barriers that women still face when trying to access abortion and contraceptive care,” Chandler said. “I am proud to sponsor this bill in honor of all the women who came before me and struggled to get the services they needed.”
Chandler said her efforts are motivated by the prospect of a better future.
“I will fight for the ROE Act so that future generations may live in a safer and healthier world,” Chandler said.
Not all believe that these efforts to increase abortion access are needed, however.
President of pro-life organization Massachusetts Citizens for Life, Anne Fox, said while she recognizes the legal possibility to expand abortion rights, she thinks there is no need for state abortion expansion because it is already accessible.
“They talk about access,” Fox said. “Well, in Massachusetts no one, no woman, is more than an hour at most from an abortion facility. It is less than an hour to get there.”
These already adequate forms of accessible help, Fox said, make the prospect of further accessibility difficult to imagine.
“It is kind of hard to think how you could expand it,” Fox said.
Massachusetts Citizens for Life, alongside other pro-life groups, is looking to pass legislation as well.
Fox said the organization filed state bills this January that would fight coercion and increase educational information about abortion provided in clinics and schools.
“You take your dog in for surgery, you get a whole lot of information,” Fox said. “If you go in for an abortion, you get very little information. This would require that the people at the abortion facilities tell a women what is involved in the whole process.”
Carmen Hernandez, 52, of Back Bay, said although the possibility for new abortion access legislation could be a positive thing, abortion can still be upsetting.
“In a way, it is a mixed blessing,” Hernandez said. “A lot of young people aren’t always ready for parenthood.”
Katherine Burke, 19, of Fenway, said that she is pro-choice because she believes that situationally, abortion can sometimes be the best, or only, option for some women.
“There are certain instances where abortion is not the best answer,” Burke said. “However, there are other cases where it might be necessary, or it might be better for the mother to get an abortion.”
Saloni Jain, 23, of Brookline, said she believes legislation to improve abortion access could be a positive change.
“If it makes it easier, then it is good,” Jain said.