By Christine M. Williams
ATTLEBORO, Mass. — Undercover videos have prompted a nationwide call to defund Planned Parenthood, but in Massachusetts, public funds pay directly for abortions. A citizen initiative petition, recently approved by the attorney general, seeks to stop taxpayer dollars from subsidizing abortion.
The petition, which must garner nearly 65,000 registered voters’ signatures by November 18, would add to the state constitution the sentence: “No provision of this constitution shall be construed as requiring the public funding of abortion.” After receiving enough signatures, the measure would need to be voted on favorably by a quarter of elected officials in two consecutive state legislative sessions before appearing on the ballot in 2018.
Although federal funds cannot be used for abortion, except in the case of rape, incest or danger to the life of the mother, Massachusetts has subsidized abortions under Medicaid since a 1981 Supreme Judicial Court decision which approved the practice of state government paying directly for abortion. The court also termed abortion a “fundamental right.”
Tom Harvey, the lawyer who filed the petition, said that if successful, the petition would allow the issue of funding abortion to come before the Massachusetts legislature and that voters would be able to hold their elected representatives accountable for supporting taxpayer dollars being spent on abortion.
He added that the current makeup of the legislature is “better than it used to be” in terms of the Pro-Life cause. The petition is the first “small step” toward making more local Pro-Life gains.
There has been a national and local push for the defunding of the nation’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, since the Center for Medical Progress released undercover videos that show high-level Planned Parenthood employees pricing fetal organs; the selling of human body parts is a federal crime. PP officials at the national level have denied illegal activity, saying that the employees were merely discussing the “reasonable payments” for the “transportation, implantation, processing, preservation, quality control or storage of human fetal tissue” allowed by federal law.
Agatha Bodwell, executive director of Catholic Citizenship, said that the videos show the “atrocities” that occur in abortion clinics. Public funding should never pay for abortions or go toward abortion clinics.
“The Planned Parenthood undercover videos have forced people to think about what is really happening in the abortion industry. The timing of this ballot petition couldn’t be better,” she said.
There are several Pro-Life bills before the Massachusetts legislature this year, including a bill that would require abortion facilities to be licensed and inspected as well as the proposed Laura’s Law, which would inform pregnant women of resources available to them and the effects of abortion.
Catholic Citizenship supports both bills and to further the respect for life, the organization will sponsor a celebration of life day in the Great Hall of the Massachusetts Statehouse on October 14 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event will recognize the life-saving work of crisis pregnancy centers.
Every fall also marks the start of another 40 Days for Life campaign, which will be held outside six Massachusetts abortion clinics in Attleboro, Boston, Haverhill, Lynn, Springfield and Worcester from September 23 to November 1.
Ron Larose, co-coordinator at the Attleboro vigil, said that the number of people praying outside the clinic has increased significantly since the Center for Medical Progress began releasing its undercover videos. He expects that publicity to boost attendance at 40 Days as well.
“We’re optimistic that we can keep the momentum going,” he said.
Kathleen Hill, who leads a Bible study for post-abortive women at Abundant Hope Pregnancy Resource Center in Attleboro, said that the undercover videos are particularly affecting women who have had abortions. She said that supporting women in continuing their pregnancies benefits the child and the mother.
“They say it’s like tearing a scab off a wound. And these are women that have gone through healing,” she said. “I spoke to one woman who had an abortion 41 years ago and she said, ‘I think about that baby every single day.’ They don’t ever forget.”
For more information on the citizen initiative petition, visit stoppublicfundingofabortion.org.