Abortion-rights advocates rally in Northampton to ‘stop the bans’

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  • A trio hold signs during a rally against abortion bans Tuesday, May 21, 2019 at Pulaski Park in Northampton. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Jennifer Taub, a law professor and author, speaks during a rally against abortion bans Tuesday, May 21, 2019 at Pulaski Park in Northampton. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • People cheer and applaud during a rally against abortion bans, Tuesday, at Pulaski Park in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • People listen to a speaker while holding signs during a rally against abortion bans Tuesday, May 21, 2019 at Pulaski Park in Northampton. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Cheryl Zoll, who is the CEO of Tapestry Health, speaks during a rally against abortion bans Tuesday, May 21, 2019 at Pulaski Park in Northampton. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Shanique Spalding speaks during a rally against abortion bans Tuesday, May 21, 2019 at Pulaski Park in Northampton. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • People listen to a speaker while holding signs during a rally against abortion bans, Tuesday, at Pulaski Park in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • People listen to a speaker while holding signs during a rally against abortion bans Tuesday, May 21, 2019 at Pulaski Park in Northampton. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Rachel Maiore, center on stage, who is the director of the Pioneer Valley Women's March, reads a statement from U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern during a rally against abortion bans Tuesday, May 21, 2019 at Pulaski Park in Northampton. Women dressed in red on stage represent characters from "The Handmaid's Tale". Dinah Kudatski, front, of Amherst, holds a sign. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 5/21/2019 11:36:41 PM

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated Carrie Baker’s stance on Roe v. Wade, which she says is likely to be overturned by the Supreme Court.

NORTHAMPTON — As Alabama’s pending abortion ban leads multiple states in a wave of abortion restrictions, local abortion-rights advocates have responded with a call to maintain and strengthen the rights of women to terminate a pregnancy in Massachusetts and across the country.

On May 15, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed a bill that makes it a felony to perform abortions at any stage of pregnancy, except in cases where the pregnancy poses a serious hazard to the parent’s health. The legislation, which presents the most restrictive measures on abortion in the country, does not include exceptions for rape or incest.

Although Ivey signed the bill, the legislation is not yet in effect and has been challenged by both Democrats and Republicans.

In Ohio, Georgia, Kentucky and Mississippi, legislators have also passed bills that would restrict abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

While Massachusetts is a long way from Alabama — both in terms of distance and abortion access — local abortion-rights advocates have voiced that Massachusetts has a greater responsibility than ever to uphold the right to a safe and legal abortion, as protected under Roe v. Wade. In 1973, the landmark Supreme Court decision legalized abortion throughout the country.

“I think that our state has a responsibility now more than ever to eliminate any possibility that abortion access could be undermined here,” said Bill Newman, director of the Western Regional Office of the ACLU of Massachusetts, who described Alabama’s ban as “Draconian” and in “direct confrontation” with Roe v. Wade.

To protect and improve abortion access in Massachusetts, Newman advocates for the passage of the ROE Act — a state bill that, among other policy and language reforms, would allow minors to get abortions without parental permission and would allow for abortions after 24 weeks in cases of fatal fetal anomalies.

The ROE Act, which was introduced at the State House in January, includes state Rep. Linsday Sabadosa and state Sen. Jo Comerford among its supporters.

Under current state legislation, pregnancies can only be terminated after 24 weeks if the abortion “is necessary to save the life of the mother, or if a continuation of her pregnancy will impose on her a substantial risk of grave impairment of her physical or mental health.”

Under the ROE Act, abortions may also be performed after 24 weeks “in cases of lethal fetal anomalies, or when the fetus is incompatible with sustained life outside the uterus.” The bill also states that “Medical judgment may be exercised in the light of all factors — physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the person’s age — relevant to the well-being of the patient.”

Abortion Rights Fund of Western Massachusetts co-President Carrie Baker, who also voiced support for the ROE Act, said she has noticed Alabama’s abortion ban “really mobilizing people here in the state of Massachusetts to do all that we can to ensure full abortion rights.”

“We’ve definitely shifted into overdrive and are seeing a whole lot of grassroots concerns for those people who are pregnant,” she added.

Following Ivey’s signing of the bill on May 15, Baker said that the Abortion Rights Fund received five volunteer forms through its website over the course of Wednesday and Thursday — an unusually high amount of interest in a short time period, she said.

While Alabama’s law does not apply outside of the state for its residents, Baker noted that if Alabama’s abortion ban makes it to the Supreme Court, Roe v. Wade could be at risk of being overturned.

“The Supreme Court could rule that fetuses have full constitutional rights, thus striking down Massachusetts’ protections for abortion,” Baker wrote in an email. She said that while that scenario is “a remote possibility,” the reversal of Roe v. Wade is likely. “In this current political climate, especially with people like Gorsuch and Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, I think we need to think about the worst-case scenarios,” she added, referring to Justices Brett M. Kavanaugh and Neil M. Gorsuch.

In another show of support for abortion access, the Pioneer Valley Women’s March, Indivisible and The Resistance Center for Peace and Justice held a  “Stop the Bans” rally at Pulaski Park o n Tuesday to support Roe v. Wade and oppose anti-abortion legislation. The rally was held as part of the National Day of Action to Stop the Bans.

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at jvoghel@gazettenet.com.


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