Massachusetts State Legislature Expands Abortion Protections, Providers With ROE Act, Over Governor’s Veto

On Tuesday, the Massachusetts legislature overturned the Governor’s veto of the ROE Act, a state law that expanded the availability of abortions to individuals 16 years of age and older without parental consent, and in specified circumstances —to all persons— during any stage of pregnancy.

Mass. Governor Charlie Baker previously vetoed the bill, citing an irreconcilable difference with the Act’s provision allowing 16-17 year olds to acquire abortions without parental consent. The bill goes further, however, allowing minors under the age of 16 who are unable to acquire parental consent for an option to petition a trial court judge for permission to engage in said abortion. These hearings are confidential, require the issuance of a written opinion (regardless of outcome), and associated court records are sealed upon the completion of the judicial proceedings. Additionally, individuals receiving adverse judicial outcomes can petition the decision to the Mass. Supreme Court. Finally, consent necessitated by abortion recipients of any age cannot retain a delay requirement; that is the abortion facility may no longer require a delay period between the consent form being signed and the abortion being performed. 

The Act also greatly expanded who could perform abortions and when the procedure could be commenced during the pregnancy period. In addition to physicians, physician’s assistants, midwives, and nurse practitioners can all perform abortions when the carrying party has been pregnant for 24 weeks or less. 

Physicians can perform abortions from 24 weeks and beyond only in a “hospital duly authorized to provide facilities for obstetrical services —except in the case of a “emergency requiring immediate action”— with a showing that the abortion “is necessary, in the best medical judgment of the physician, to preserve the patient’s physical or mental health or, in the best medical judgment of the physician, an abortion is warranted because of a lethal fetal anomaly or the fetus is incompatible with sustained life outside the uterus.” Abortions beyond 24 weeks of pregnancy additionally require the facility to retain state-approved “life-supporting equipment…to enable the physician performing the abortion…to preserve the life and health of…the patient.”