Friday, April 19

Editorial: Abortion move puts Bay State on front lines

Massachusetts is now in a glaring spotlight.

Gov. Charlie Baker signed an executive order Friday following the U.S. Supreme Court decision on abortion that will protect Bay State health care providers who perform abortion services for out-of-state women.

But the last thing this state needs is to become an abortion destination.

A dozen states permit abortion prior to viability — 24 weeks — or when necessary to protect the life or health of the pregnant woman. That’s the law in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine, Connecticut and New York. Abortion is also legal in New Hampshire, with a few restrictions, and in Vermont.

The Guttmacher Institute found just under 50 abortion facilities in Massachusetts in a recent survey. The Washington, D.C., nonprofit bills itself as a research and policy organization committed to advancing sexual and reproductive health.

The ROE Act in Massachusetts further solidifies abortion rights. So getting an abortion here is not at risk. But the Supreme Court’s decision has ignited the debate over women’s rights and the rights of the unborn.

Surveys are clear: 61% of Americans polled say abortion should be legal in all or most circumstances. That’s according to the Pew Research Center. A deeper reading shows it’s more nuanced.

“The public’s attitudes are contingent upon such circumstances as when an abortion takes place during a woman’s pregnancy, whether the pregnancy endangers a woman’s life and whether a baby would have severe health problems,” Pew states.

Financial stability, timing, parental consent, rape, incest, the mother’s health, the child’s health — it all plays into the abortion decision.

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Cardinal Sean O’Malley said the court’s ruling creates “the possibility of protecting human life from conception.” He adds it also “calls us to recognize the unique burden faced by women in pregnancy.”

The ruling, he adds, “begins a new chapter” in statehouses, Congress and courts. It should not place a burden on health care workers here in Massachusetts, but it should help evolve health care and contraception.

There’s time now to address alternatives to abortion while the courts face more challenges.

It’s also time to defend what Massachusetts gets right. That includes not attacking the Baby Safe Haven law. As the group wrote Friday, “social media flak about safe haven laws being the reason for the Roe decision … couldn’t be farther from the truth.”

The Safe Haven Act of Massachusetts, which took effect on Oct. 29, 2004, allows a parent to legally surrender infants 7 days old or younger at a hospital, police station or manned fire station without facing criminal prosecution if there are no signs of abuse or neglect of the child.

We wrote that after someone left a baby in the parking lot of a Leominster hospital in 2017.

A nurse returning to her car found the baby boy wrapped in a blanket and left in a box on the ground next to her vehicle in the parking lot of the hospital. The infant was immediately taken into the ER and was declared healthy. That law has nothing to do with abortion rights. But it does show Massachusetts deeply cares about children.

As the cardinal said, the Supreme Court’s ruling compels us to evolve and consider alternatives to abortion. We can think of no better state to start that discussion.

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