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Massachusetts governor vetoes abortion expansion measure

December 24, 2020 GMT

BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts’ Republican governor vetoed legislation on Thursday that would expand access to abortion in the state.

Gov. Charlie Baker, in his veto message, said he strongly supports many provisions of the measure included in the state budget passed by the Democratic-controlled state Legislature.

That includes language enshrining the right to an abortion in the state, as well as a provision ensuring a woman can access an abortion in cases where the child will not survive after birth, he said.

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But the moderate Republican said he “cannot support” expanding the availability of later-term abortions and permitting 16- and 17-year-olds to get an abortion without the consent of a parent or guardian.

“Gov. Baker correctly recognized that this legislation simply goes too far, and he should be applauded for standing up and saying ‘no’ to the abortion lobby,” Jim Lyons, chair of the state Republican Party, said in a statement.

The Catholic Action League also voiced support for Baker’s veto, but a coalition supporting the measure slammed the veto as showing a “callous and dangerous disregard” for the health and well-being of state residents.

“With this veto, the Governor has made plain that he has no problem imposing medically unnecessary barriers that delay and deny care, and forcing families to fly across the country to get compassionate care,” said the ROE Act Coalition, which includes the Massachusetts chapters of the Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund, NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, and the American Civil Liberties Union.

The state Democratic Party also called the Christmas Eve veto cowardly.

“Hoping that we would all be too busy to notice, Charlie Baker once again caved in to the extreme right-wing of his Republican Party by vetoing critical abortion access provisions that would put our laws in line with neighboring states like Maine, New York and Connecticut,” chair Gus Bickford said in a statement.

Baker previously amended the measure to strike provisions he objected to, but the Legislature rejected the changes and sent it back to the governor.

Baker, in his veto message, urged lawmakers to reconsider his proposed compromise, but Democratic leaders appear poised to override the veto.

The measure passed the House and Senate with supermajorities, and House Speaker Robert DeLeo, through a spokesperson, confirmed he’ll seek a veto override vote in this chamber, the Boston Globe reported.

The Legislature’s measure lets women obtain an abortion after 24 weeks of pregnancy in cases of “fatal fetal anomalies.” Current state law allows abortions after 24 weeks only to preserve the life or health of the mother.

It also lowers the age, to 16, at which an abortion could be obtained without the permission of a parent. Under current law, those under 18 must have at least one parent’s consent or seek judicial consent to have an abortion.

The measure also codifies the right to an abortion in state law in response to concerns about the future of Roe v. Wade, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling protecting abortion rights nationwide.