UPDATE, August 1, 9:52 a.m.: Gov. Charlie Baker (R) last week signed the NASTY Woman Act after it passed both state legislative chambers.
Four months after the Massachusetts Senate unanimously agreed to repeal “archaic” laws targeting women’s access to health care, the NASTY Women Act is still waiting to be called for a vote in the state house.
An Act Negating Archaic Statutes Targeting Young Women (S 2260) is also known as the “NASTY Women Act” in reference to Republican President Donald Trump taunting Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election cycle. The measure, sponsored by state Acting Senate President Harriette L. Chandler (D-Worcester), would repeal three antiquated laws previously overturned by state and federal courts so they couldn’t be used in practice: a 19th-century ban on all abortions, a state requirement that all non-emergent abortions after the 12th week of pregnancy be performed in a hospital, and a ban on contraception use for unmarried women.
“We are living in a time when leaders at the highest levels of power in our country are demeaning women and attempting to roll back their rights,” Chandler said in a statement after the bill passed in the state Senate on Jan. 25. “Massachusetts must affirm its commitment to protecting women’s rights to essential health care and expunge these dangerous laws.”
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As legislators around the nation mount challenges to curtail the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion in the U.S., advocates here are pushing the state to stand up for women’s rights and choice.
“We don’t believe Massachusetts can truly lead the nation as a beacon of reproductive freedom unless it gets archaic statues off the books that could be used to limit access to abortion care if Roe fell,” Rebecca Hart Holder, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, told Rewire.News on Wednesday.
S 2260 is currently under review in the house Ways and Means Committee, chair and state Rep. Jeffrey Sánchez (D-Boston) told Rewire.News in an emailed statement. If passed there, it must then be called up for a vote on the state house floor.
Often the first in the nation to pass progressive measures like the legalization of same-sex marriage, Massachusetts recently passed new laws protecting pregnant women and new mothers, equal pay, and free birth control.
Holder said the time is right to continue the momentum by passing the NASTY Women Act in 2018. “We think there is no better time to send a statement about the value of women to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts than by taking this antiquated law off the books,” she said
Advocates warn it will not be an easy vote as several Democrats are reluctant to discuss abortion issues, much like in neighboring Rhode Island, where some Democratic leaders remain staunchly anti-abortion.
But already the Guttmacher Institute has counted 347 measures to restrict access to either abortion or contraception in 37 states during the first quarter of 2018, and ten abortion restrictions have been adopted in five states this year.
Thomas Koch, the mayor of Quincy, Massachusetts, and a staunch Catholic, recently left the Democratic party over the abortion issue, the Patriot Ledger reported.
As Trump continues to wage war on reproductive rights, advocates warn that even states considered more liberal like Massachusetts have to be vigilant about laws that could be deployed to outlaw abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned.
“We all know that states across the country have passed more than 1,000 laws restricting access to abortion since 1973. These restrictions in states like Texas and Iowa often capture the media’s attention, but what often goes unnoticed are the antiquated, pre-Roe laws that even many of our ‘blue’ states still have on the books that criminalize abortion, as is the case in Massachusetts and New York. In both states, these laws would be deployed to push abortion out of reach if Roe v. Wade gets eroded. Indeed, these laws are already being used to criminalize women who self-manage their abortions,” Andrea Miller, president of the National Institute for Reproductive Health said to Rewire.News in an emailed statement.
“In both Massachusetts and New York, there are bills pending in the legislatures to change these antiquated laws. Those bills should be at the top of legislators’ list of priorities,” added Miller.