Stop Taxpayer Funding of Abortion in Massachusetts [Updated]

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Stop Taxpayer Funding of Abortion in Massachusetts [Updated]

[If] you do not speak up to warn the wicked about their ways, they shall die in their sins, but I will hold you respon­si­ble for their blood. –Ezekiel 33:8

Mass­a­chu­setts Gen­eral Law defines abor­tion as “the know­ing destruc­tion of the life of an unborn child.” Fur­ther, it defines an “unborn child” as “the indi­vid­ual human life in exis­tence and devel­op­ing from implan­ta­tion of the embryo in the uterus until birth.” Now, we can argue about whether that indi­vid­ual human life began at implan­ta­tion or at con­cep­tion, but Mass­a­chu­setts law is clear that the unborn child is a life and not just a “blob of tis­sue.” Unfor­tu­nately, the Mass­a­chu­setts Supreme Judi­cial Court (SJC) in Moe vs Sec­re­tary of Admin­is­tra­tion and Finance (1981) decided that tax­payer funds must be used to kill that life if its mother so wishes.

Prior to Moe, the state oper­ated under the Doyle-​Flynn Amend­ment – the state-​level equiv­a­lent of the fed­eral Hyde Amend­ment, which has been upheld repeat­edly by the US Supreme Court – which pro­hib­ited tax­payer funds from being used to pay for abor­tions. But in 1981, the SJC took it upon itself to go beyond the fed­eral Roe v. Wade deci­sion and decreed that tax­payer funds must indeed be used to pay for abor­tions for poor women under the guise of “equal pro­tec­tion.” Why the legally-​recognized life in the womb is not also due equal pro­tec­tion of the laws is not clear, but the SJC ruled that since state Med­ic­aid funds were used to pay for legit­i­mate mater­nity care and other health care for indi­gent women, Med­ic­aid must also pay for abortions.

As did Roe v. Wade, this deci­sion clearly over­stepped the judi­cial role of inter­pret­ing the Mass­a­chu­setts Con­sti­tu­tion and enshrined a pol­icy deci­sion with the weight of a con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment, thus pro­hibit­ing the leg­is­la­ture from even debat­ing the issue. Legally, the only proper response is an actual con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment that the SJC can­not mis­in­ter­pret to its own ends. The Alliance to Stop Tax­payer Funded Abor­tion has taken up the chal­lenge and is cur­rently gath­er­ing sig­na­tures with the hope of bring­ing this ques­tion to Bay State vot­ers in Novem­ber 2020.

The amend­ment as pro­posed reads “Noth­ing in this Con­sti­tu­tion shall require tax­payer fund­ing for abor­tions.” Note that it does not make abor­tion ille­gal in MA. It only per­mits the leg­is­la­ture to debate whether tax­payer funds should be used to pay for them.

The amend­ment process in Mass­a­chu­setts is extra­or­di­nar­ily dif­fi­cult. The first step is to gather 64,750 sig­na­tures by Novem­ber, 2017. In actu­al­ity, this means we need to gather close to 100,000 sig­na­tures because it seems like the Sec­re­tary of State’s office looks for any excuse to reject valid sig­na­tures. If there is a stray pen mark on a sheet with 25 valid sig­na­tures, the entire sheet may be thrown out. So, vol­un­teers – includ­ing my wife and I – are being very care­ful with the signed sheets.

Assum­ing we get the required sig­na­tures, the motion must be approved by 50 mem­bers of the state leg­is­la­ture in two con­sec­u­tive ses­sions in order to be put on the bal­lot in 2020 to allow cit­i­zens to vote on the amend­ment. Assum­ing it passes, Mass­a­chu­setts will be in line with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and the leg­isla­tive his­tory of the state in let­ting the leg­is­la­ture decide whether tax­payer funds will be used to pay to know­ingly destroy the life of an unborn child.

There are many ways you can help. Of course, you can vol­un­teer, or donate to the Alliance, and if you’re a reg­is­tered Mass­a­chu­setts voter, please sign a peti­tion. And please keep our efforts in your prayers.

Update: Stacy McCain talks about this (and a few other things) here.

[If] you do not speak up to warn the wicked about their ways, they shall die in their sins, but I will hold you responsible for their blood.    –Ezekiel 33:8

Massachusetts General Law defines abortion as “the knowing destruction of the life of an unborn child.” Further, it defines an “unborn child” as “the individual human life in existence and developing from implantation of the embryo in the uterus until birth.” Now, we can argue about whether that individual human life began at implantation or at conception, but Massachusetts law is clear that the unborn child is a life and not just a “blob of tissue.” Unfortunately, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) in Moe vs Secretary of Administration and Finance (1981) decided that taxpayer funds must be used to kill that life if its mother so wishes.

Prior to Moe, the state operated under the Doyle-Flynn Amendment – the state-level equivalent of the federal Hyde Amendment, which has been upheld repeatedly by the US Supreme Court – which prohibited taxpayer funds from being used to pay for abortions. But in 1981, the SJC took it upon itself to go beyond the federal Roe v. Wade decision and decreed that taxpayer funds must indeed be used to pay for abortions for poor women under the guise of “equal protection.” Why the legally-recognized life in the womb is not also due equal protection of the laws is not clear, but the SJC ruled that since state Medicaid funds were used to pay for legitimate maternity care and other health care for indigent women, Medicaid must also pay for abortions.

As did Roe v. Wade, this decision clearly overstepped the judicial role of interpreting the Massachusetts Constitution and enshrined a policy decision with the weight of a constitutional amendment, thus prohibiting the legislature from even debating the issue. Legally, the only proper response is an actual constitutional amendment that the SJC cannot misinterpret to its own ends. The Alliance to Stop Taxpayer Funded Abortion has taken up the challenge and is currently gathering signatures with the hope of bringing this question to Bay State voters in November 2020.

The amendment as proposed reads “Nothing in this Constitution shall require taxpayer funding for abortions.” Note that it does not make abortion illegal in MA. It only permits the legislature to debate whether taxpayer funds should be used to pay for them.

The amendment process in Massachusetts is extraordinarily difficult. The first step is to gather 64,750 signatures by November, 2017. In actuality, this means we need to gather close to 100,000 signatures because it seems like the Secretary of State’s office looks for any excuse to reject valid signatures. If there is a stray pen mark on a sheet with 25 valid signatures, the entire sheet may be thrown out. So, volunteers – including my wife and I – are being very careful with the signed sheets.

Assuming we get the required signatures, the motion must be approved by 50 members of the state legislature in two consecutive sessions in order to be put on the ballot in 2020 to allow citizens to vote on the amendment. Assuming it passes, Massachusetts will be in line with the federal government  and the legislative history of the state in letting the legislature decide whether taxpayer funds will be used to pay to knowingly destroy the life of an unborn child.

There are many ways you can help. Of course, you can volunteer, or donate to the Alliance, and if you’re a registered Massachusetts voter, please sign a petition. And please keep our efforts in your prayers.

Update: Stacy McCain talks about this (and a few other things) here.