Not the ROE Act

Not the ROE Act and not Anti-Racist

On Thursday night, the MA House voted on a budget which included Amendment 759 labeled “Improved Access to Healthcare.” This Amendment contains elements of the ROE Act which still languishes in the Committee of the Joint Judiciary. In my opinion, the ROE Act can be seen as an example of anti-racist legislation and Amendment 759 as an example of how institutionalized racism is perpetuated.

Importantly, the House Amendment would make abortion in MA possible after 24 weeks in the tragic instances of fatal fetal anomaly, thus stopping the unfair and cruel necessity to travel to CO for the procedure. It would also make it possible for 16-18 year old patients to decide on and receive abortion care without the consent of a parent or court just as they are currently permitted to do for all other pregnancy related care. The Amendment would also remove the never-enforced 24 hour waiting period and recognize NPs, PAs, and Midwives as care providers.

This is good news, but it is not the ROE Act – which aimed to remove inaccurate language as well as the unjust and costly barriers to abortion care. This Amendment does neither adequately. It is a compromise which compromises the care for those most vulnerable.

In its language regarding abortion in the cases of fatal fetal anomalies, it includes language about “live births” and requires “life-saving equipment.” This codifies the anti-abortion movement’s misinformation campaign that doctors perform ‘infanticide’ – which is, of course, patently untrue. One of the main goals of the ROE Act was to remove inflammatory and incorrect language such as this. This language is unfair to the medical practitioners, and unnecessary, since these procedures are always performed in hospital settings. This language is a clear capitulation to those who insist on controlling reproductive rights and framing them as something they are not. Anti-abortion folks rage against women who require or choose an abortion, but it is, in fact, normal and safe. It only behooves their argument to frame it otherwise and endangers those seeking and giving care.

But the largest oversight in this budget amendment is the failure to make abortion care part of the overall healthcare safety net for all and to recognize it as a right with which the government will not interfere. The Commonwealth covers all other pregnancy related care and yet has selectively overlooked abortion care, which one might argue, is actually less costly and less dangerous statistically than full-term pregnancy care.

In my opinion, this amendment does not do what the ROE Act set out to do. It does not include positive language affirming reproductive rights, including abortion care. It does not remove obstacles to care for those most vulnerable. In fact, if you are under 16, in foster care, in an abusive family relationship, do not have financial means, or insurance, it will not make a difference.

When we raise our voices regarding inequities in our system and institutionalized racism, let’s recognize that this is how it happens: to create a bill like the ROE Act and then remove the provisions for those who would most benefit from it enforces the inequities of our policies and perpetuates institutionalized racism.

The Senate may yet correct or add language that addresses these inaccuracies and inequities in an amendment to their budget. At the time of this writing the Senate language was not available.

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