As lawmakers gathered at the Massachusetts State House Monday afternoon, over 100 pro life and reproductive rights advocates gathered outside to voice both opposition and support of a controversial bill which would expand access to abortion procedures in cases of medical emergency.

The Act to Remove Obstacles and Expand Abortion Access (otherwise referred to as the "ROE Act") seeks to amend current Massachusetts state law by allowing abortions after 24 weeks in cases of lethal diagnoses deemed necessary by a physician. The bill would also remove mandatory parental consent from minors seeking procedures, which proponents argue disproportionately targets low-income teens and teens of color.

The public hearing on the act, introduced by Senator Harriette L Chandler (D-Worcester) in January of this year, comes in the wake of the state of Alabama’s passing of HB 314 last month allowing both abortion providers and patients to be charged with a felony offense except in life threatening emergencies. A similar bill was also signed by Georgia governor Brian Kemp in May.

“Now more than ever, Massachusetts must build on the promise of Roe v. Wade with laws that respect the right of every woman to make private medical decisions in consultation with her doctor,” stated Attorney General Maura Healey, who testified on behalf of the ROE Act, stated in a tweet yesterday. “Across this country, we see laws being passed to criminalize abortion and limit access to reproductive health care. We have an opportunity to send a strong message that we are not Alabama or Georgia.”

Statistics from the Center for Disease Control indicate that out of close to 640,000 legal abortions performed in 2015, 91.1 percent were considered at early gestation (under 13 weeks.) Only 1.3 percent were performed after 21 weeks; a number many pro choice advocates argue is the result potentially life threatening conditions.

A Boston Globe-Suffolk University poll released last week found 64 percent of the public in support of the ROE Act, in comparison to 23 percent opposed.

The ROE Act is not without its critics. Massachusetts Republic Party  Chairman Jim Lyons referred to the bill as “radical infanticide” failing “the feeblest standard for a decent and humane society,” earlier in April. Governor Charlie Baker, who also opposes the act, stated that Lyons’s comments were “inflated language that exists on all sides in politics.”

Currently, 104 legislators have cosponsored the bill, including 22 in the Senate and 92 in the House.

Image via Wikimedia / Daderot