Columnist Chelsea Kline: In passing ROE Act, Mass once again a trailblazer

Published: 1/4/2021 2:08:56 PM

Although abortion has been legal since 1973, longer than my entire lifetime, I’ve witnessed countless examples of how legislators across the nation have created obstacles that effectively block access and make true reproductive freedom ever more elusive.

The latest attempted attack on our rights came in the form of a veto from Gov. Charlie Baker, which mercifully, the Legislature worked quickly to override, a historic milestone for Massachusetts.

As a woman, mother of three, and former teen parent, I’m proud to live in a state that has now successfully reestablished itself as a national progressive trailblazer. This legislation recognizes that abortion is far more than a simple black-and-white issue, but rather shades of gray that intersect with our civil rights, religious beliefs, and our ability to strive for social and economic justice.

This legislation will most certainly make great strides in enhancing the well-being of our friends and neighbors across the state and brings us closer to removing medically unnecessary barriers to abortion care in Massachusetts.

As a mother of a young adult woman, I’m celebrating the signing of the ROE act into law. Not every young person can speak frankly with their guardians or parents about an unplanned pregnancy. I empathize with young people who can’t turn to their family if they fear punishments, shaming, or even loss of housing, which can lead to dropping out of school or homelessness.

Young people deserve to live safe and healthy lives, and to make health care decisions with their trusted advisors. They do not deserve missing school to plead their case to a judge or dealing with delays and stress while navigating the courts. Ideally, all young people should be empowered with comprehensive sex education, free and effective contraceptives, and access to medically accurate information and support. We only set young people up for isolation, impoverishment, and interrupted or halted education when we impose hurdles, burdens, shame, or block their access to information.

As a woman, I’m cheering that the ROE Act is now state law because I know that pregnancies, even when anticipated and hoped for, sometimes don’t go as planned. I believe that pregnant people deserve to make their personal medical decisions with their doctor, and no one else. Sadly, sometimes people need to unexpectedly end a purposeful pregnancy after a fatal fetal diagnosis or other unforeseen serious medical issues. People facing these difficult situations deserve to have access to safe and discreet care without the burdens of imposed waiting times or cumbersome time-consuming and expensive travel.

As a former teen parent, I am overjoyed that reproductive freedom is now codified into state law. I know firsthand how feelings of vulnerability, fear, and shame can overwhelm a young person when they are facing an unplanned pregnancy. Thanks to our legislators, a person can access abortion care regardless of their income, age, where they live in Massachusetts, and whether or not they have family support.

Along with the majority of Massachusetts voters, I’m profoundly relieved that our legislators worked quickly to protect the health of our citizens. The ROE act is a good reminder that many of our freedoms are being decided at the state level, and who we elect to serve as our councilors, mayors, state representatives and senators really matters. 

I’m exceedingly grateful to Senate President Emerita Harriette Chandler, Speaker Pro Tempore Pat Haddad, and Rep. Jay Livingstone for their work as lead sponsors of the ROE Act. I also deeply appreciate House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Karen Spilka, and Judiciary Committee Chairs Claire Cronin and Jamie Eldridge. These brave leaders understand that equity in abortion connects to health care, and social and economic justice.

Thank you to the volunteers who worked tirelessly to help usher in laws that honor our diverse needs, religious beliefs and reflect our 21st century values around autonomy, privacy and freedom. 

Chelsea Kline is a social justice advocate in western Massachusetts and a mother of three. She writes a monthly column for the Gazette.


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