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Massachusetts Governor Says He’s Pro-Choice. But He Might Not Sign a Pro-Choice Bill.

Auditi Guha

While he supported repealing antiquated anti-choice laws, Gov. Charlie Baker (R) has not come out in support of legislation that would expand access to later abortion care.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R), who has pushed back against recent federal attempts to curtail family planning funding, told reporters Monday he’s concerned about protections for later abortion care, taking a page from President Trump’s anti-choice playbook.

Prior to a hearing Monday on the Remove Obstacles and Expand (ROE) Abortion Access Act that packed the state house, Baker said he had concerns about the legislation nixing parental notification requirements, adding that “the language here matters a lot, which is why this conversation is important with respect to changing the terms and conditions associated with late-term abortions in Massachusetts.”

Baker has claimed to be pro-choice but said in April he does not support expanding access to later abortion care in Massachusetts, mirroring a “dangerous trope” employed by anti-choice groups to prevent people from accessing abortion services beyond 20 weeks into pregnancy. 

In states where lawmakers have proposed protecting and expanding abortion rights since Trump appointed two conservative justices to the U.S. Supreme Court, anti-choice politicians and activists have trotted out well-worn propaganda equating later abortion care to infanticide. In Virginia, where Democrats pushed a bill that would loosen restrictions around later abortions, abortion rights foes cried infanticide, repeating talking points from the White House. Baker has not equated later abortion care with infanticide, but his opposition to allowing abortion later in pregnancy remains.

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To suggest later abortion care includes the “execution” of healthy infants, as Trump did in April, is “an intentionally dishonest, cruel, and unusual accusation,” Julia A. Pulver, a former NICU nurse, wrote for Rewire.News. “These tragedies are never chosen, and every parent going through it suffers greatly. I know, because I’ve seen it.”

“The idea that someone would go through the physical, personal, and emotional commitment of pregnancy and parenthood to just flippantly decide to choose an abortion moments before birth or to commit infanticide is ludicrous,” Pulver wrote. “It is an invented crisis being pushed by extreme anti-choice activists and politicians. It does not exist in real, actual medical practice.”

The right to have an abortion would still exist in Massachusetts if Roe v. Wade was overturned, but current law includes restrictions that legislators are looking to remove with the ROE Act (HD 2548/SD 109) this year. It has 114 cosponsors in the house and state senate and support from more than 50 organizations, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Planned Parenthood, and the League of Women Voters in Massachusetts.

While he supported repealing antiquated anti-choice laws last year, Baker has not come out in support of the ROE Act. He has said he would not be in favor of expanding abortion rights.

“I support current law in Massachusetts,” he said in April, MassLive reported. “It’s worked well for decades for women and families here in Massachusetts, and that’s what we support.”

Current law includes restrictions like parental consent for teens, lacks respect for the patient-provider relationship, forces many to cross state lines to access care, and allows abortion after 24 weeks only if the health or life of the pregnant person is in danger. The ROE Act aims to remove those restrictions and expand access to abortion after 24 weeks in cases of fatal fetal anomalies.

Baker’s office wouldn’t directly answer Rewire.News’ questions about whether the governor will support the ROE Act if the legislation clears the Democratic-majority state senate and house.

Meanwhile, the Joint Committee on the Judiciary hearing Monday pitched bill sponsors, health-care professionals, and pro-choice advocates against growing anti-choice forces in the Bay State who took issue with the 24-week extension, bandying terms like “late-term abortion” and “infanticide.”

State Sen. Harriette L. Chandler (D-Worcester), who sponsored the bill, did not hesitate to call them out in her testimony. 

“Much has been said about this bill that I care not to repeat,” she said. “The motivated misinformation is pervasive across every news story, every phone call, and every social media post. The organized opposition to this legislation makes the conscious choice to lie because medical and legal facts do not fit their narrative. They have chosen to incite fear and try to intimidate. They use mistruth as a weapon to defeat a bill that protects many and empowers the vulnerable.”

With the Trump administration’s continued attack on abortion rights and a conservative majority in the U.S. Supreme Court, states with Democratic majorities have to fight to pass Roe protections, advocates say.

“Abortion opponents have been misrepresenting efforts to protect access to abortion care, using inflammatory language to score political points,” said Rebecca Hart Holder, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts that recently launched its latest abortion care guide for Massachusetts. “These lies are being pushed by Trump and politicians, like Jim Lyons, who want to push abortion out of reach.”

“The truth is that the ROE Act will allow abortion care after 24 weeks in the case of lethal fetal diagnosis,” Holder continued. “The bill does nothing to change the medical standard of care that all clinicians must comply with when providing abortion care. These can be complex medical and deeply personal decisions. I trust patients and their doctors to make them without interference from anti-woman, anti-science politicians.”

Holder said she’s “cautiously optimistic” the law will pass. After all, more than 8 in 10 Massachusetts voters support the right to safe, legal abortion care, including those who identify as Catholic.

“As the national political fight around access to reproductive health care heats up, now is the moment for Massachusetts to lead again by removing unnecessary, burdensome, and unjust restrictions that delay and deny care,” Holder said. “Passage of the ROE Act will help us secure a future that safeguards abortion care, upholds basic rights and justice, and respects decision-making.”

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