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Briefings: In Twilight of DeLeo Era, Legislature Overrides Baker on Roe Act…

by Adam Bass

All the votes in a Roe.

The Massachusetts Senate voted to override Governor Charlie Baker’s Veto of the Roe Act on Tuesday. The bill will expand abortion access and further codify the right to abortion access in state law.

The Senate, voting 32-8 and easily crossing the two thirds needed to override. That vote came a day after the Massachusetts House voted to override the veto on Monday 107-46. The legislation will now become law.

Among Western Massachusetts legislators, the 413’s two Republican reps, Nicholas Boldyga and Todd Smola joined Democratic Reps Brian Ashe, Michael Finn, Bud Williams and Angelo Puppolo opposed the override. Democratic Senator John Velis also voted to sustain Baker’s veto.

Many lawmakers and pro-choice groups celebrated the override, such as its lead cosponsor Senator Harriet Chandler of Worcester.

“The Roe Act is now law of the land in Massachusetts,” she said in a statement. “I am proud of this legislation, and of the Senate and the Legislature for our continuing commitment to reproductive freedom.”

The legislation, formally the Roe Act, had passed as part of the annual state budget for the 2021 fiscal year. Inspired by the 1973 Supreme Court Ruling, Roe v. Wade, the act would not only codify the right to abortion access, but would also allow abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy if the fetus was found to have a fatal anomalies. In addition, the legislation permits 16 and 17 year-olds to have an abortion without parents consent.

Rep Sabadosa in pre-pandemic times. (WMP&I)

Northampton Representative Lindsey Sabadosa told WMP&I that the House leadership of Speaker Bob DeLeo and Judiciary Chair Claire Cronin were critical to getting this bill passed. 

“Even before the Veto, the Speaker felt it was a priority to pass this act,” Sabadosa explained. “The way the legislation was drafted was due to the Chairwoman meeting with all of us and discussing how we could pass this together.”

When the bill was first sent to Baker’s desk on December 11th however, he signed it without the Roe Act language. Instead, he sent the legislation back as its own bill. He asked the General Court to remove provisions allowing 16 and 17 year-olds to access abortion without parental consent or judicial approval. Additionally, Baker made clear he would not support the standalone abortion bill without changes.

The House and Senate, surprised and frustrated at the governor’s decision, rejected Baker amendment, and returned it to him. That then led to his veto on Christmas Eve. DeLeo and Spilka swiftly called for an override of the veto that same day.

The day the House overrode Baker’s veto, DeLeo announced his resignation as Speaker of the General Court. His resignation took effect Tuesday night.  DeLeo has taken pride in the bill’s passage and has received plaudits for his decisive pushback against the governor’s actions. Indeed, many speculate DeLeo saw passage of the Roe Act as a key part of his legacy in the House.

WMP&I Editor-in-chief Matt Szafranski contributed reporting to this story.