Massachusetts Senate OKs abortion rights amendment to budget

BOSTON, Mass. — The Massachusetts Senate approved a measure aimed at strengthening abortion rights in the state as part of its budget debate Wednesday.

The measure would let 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 would also lower 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 Senate approved the amendment on a 33-7 vote. The House approved a similar amendment during their budget debate.

Democratic Senate President Karen Spilka said the uncertainty surrounding the future of Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, prompted lawmakers to take action.

“I am proud the Massachusetts State Senate has taken this step to further codify a woman’s right to the health care she deserves, and the right to choose if and when to begin a family,” Spilka said in a statement after the vote. “A woman’s ability to control her reproductive future is fundamental to her freedom, her agency and her humanity.”

Republicans have criticized Democratic leaders for pushing a major policy change in the budget during a pandemic. All four Republican senators and three Democratic senators voted against the measure.

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker has previously said he opposes late-term abortions and supports current Massachusetts abortion laws.