Massachusetts lawmakers on Monday passed legislation repealing an unenforced 173-year-old abortion ban—which Republican Gov. Charlie Baker said he will sign—highlighting concerns among reproductive rights advocates about the record of President Donald Trump's latest nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, and what his confirmation could mean for women's rights.
"The changing dynamics of the Supreme Court is a real and legitimate concern. We have both a president and a vice president who have expressed an intent to overturn Roe v. Wade and we take them at their word."
—Massachusetts state Rep. Claire Cronin
While right-wing state legislators in Republican-controlled states have steadily worked to curtail abortion rights with the ultimate goal of forcing the nation's highest court to re-examine its landmark Roe v. Wade ruling, advocacy groups are raising alarm about Kavanaugh to pressure senators to reject his nomination, and states such as Massachusetts are working to protect a woman's right to choose.
"The changing dynamics of the Supreme Court is a real and legitimate concern," said Massachusetts state Rep. Claire Cronin, a Democrat. "We have both a president and a vice president who have expressed an intent to overturn Roe v. Wade and we take them at their word."
Massachusetts' Negating Archaic Statutes Targeting Young (NASTY) Women Act , as WBUR noted, will also repeal "a ban on unmarried people having access to contraception and a ban on distributing information about how to access contraception or abortions." While the measure was welcomed by reproductive rights advocates, NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts president Rebecca Hart Holder encouraged state lawmakers to go even further.
"Repealing antiquated laws is the first, critical step to ensuring that even if Roe v. Wade were overturned tomorrow, the reproductive freedom of the people of Massachusetts would be unequivocally protected," Hart Holder responded, while also urging elected officials to "enshrine protections for abortion access in state law and become a safe haven state for reproductive healthcare."
We're proud to be leading the efforts to repeal these harmful archaic laws. Abortion is healthcare, and this is long overdue. #WhatsAtStake
“Massachusetts becomes one of the first states to protect itself against possible Roe v. Wade repeal”https://t.co/iuktPe3Yfe
— NARAL Pro-Choice MA (@ProChoiceMass) July 24, 2018
Although Massachusetts also had a 1981 state Supreme Judicial Court ruling that confirmed a woman's right to choose, the state isn't alone in taking additional actions to safeguard reproductive rights amid mounting concerns about Kavanaugh. As TIME reported, "Lawmakers in New Mexico said that they would make repealing the state's abortion ban a priority in their next legislative session."
Just ahead of Trump's official nomination of Kavanaugh, New York's Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order to enhance reproductive rights and called on state lawmakers to reconvene to codify abortion rights into state law.
"In the face of this federal assault, New York is going to protect itself because this state has always been the progressive capital of the nation," Cuomo declared. "This is the time to fight back."
WBEN reported Monday that New York state lawmakers are pushing to reconvene in Albany for a vote:
Assemblyman Sean Ryan, Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul, and State Senator Tim Kennedy say they're concerned the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh as Supreme Court justice could mean an end to abortion rights for women. https://t.co/O5xjvyltLC
— WBEN NewsRadio 930AM (@NewsRadio930) July 24, 2018
A Supreme Court reversal on Roe could have an immediate impact across the nation. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy group that supports reproductive rights:
- four states have laws that automatically ban abortion if Roe were to be overturned;
- ten states retain their unenforced, pre-Roe abortion bans; and
- seven states have laws that express their intent to restrict the right to legal abortion to the maximum extent permitted by the U.S. Supreme Court in the absence of Roe.
Massachusetts' move to protect reproductive rights comes as public support for Roe v. Wade is at an all-time high. According to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll published Monday, a full 71 percent of Americans believe the decision should not be overturned. Even more Democrats, 88 percent, believe the 1973 ruling should remain in effect.
Responding to the results, NARAL tweeted: