As part of a bill offering wider protections for abortion rights in the state, Massachusetts might do away with laws requiring minors to obtain permission from parents, guardians, or judges before having abortions.
The bill, called the Roe Act, is in response to Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court appointment, which many worry might be the end of Roe v. Wade. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, regulating abortion would be left up to individual states, and the Roe Act would not only keep abortion legal in Massachusetts, it would remove the permission requirement for minors and also allow for third-trimester abortions in the case of fatal fetal conditions.
For minors who can’t obtain parental permission for abortions, getting permission from a judge both delays the process by about six days, on average, and leaves vulnerable young people in a position to be publicly shamed. In an NPR report, a woman who was 15 years old when she had to go to court and ask a judge for an abortion after being raped by a family friend says that without asking her about the circumstances of her pregnancy, the judge lectured her about being “more responsible” before allowing her to terminate her pregnancy. The time it took to get judge approval also caused her to miss the window for a medication abortion, leaving surgical abortion as her only option.
Creating these hurdles is most likely the point of the law. According to Catholic University of America professor Michael New, the restrictions, which have been in place since the 1970s, have forced at least 10,000 minors to carry unwanted pregnancies to term. However, a recent poll found that a majority of Massachusetts citizens support overturning the existing rule.
If the Roe Act passes, Massachusetts would be the first of the twenty-five states requiring parental consent to do away with the law.