Responses to ROE

In response to “With majorities in both Houses, ROE Act could expand abortion rights in Mass,” published January 9 – 15.

Mr. Fieldman’s article “With majorities in both Houses, ROE Act could expand abortion rights in Mass” is an excellent and thorough review that emphasizes the urgent need to further expand and preserve abortion access in Massachusetts.

As a family physician who frequently cares for patients seeking abortion, the urgency of the ROE Act cannot be understated. Despite relatively easy access to abortion compared to other states, patients in the Commonwealth are still faced by significant barriers to access. These barriers disproportionately affect young people, people of color, and those with new diagnoses of lethal fetal anomalies later in pregnancy. The ROE Act hopes to break down those barriers and this article does an excellent job illustrating its necessity.

Given the importance of the ROE Act, I implore Massachusetts legislators to support this in its entirety and ensure that patients in the Commonwealth have equitable access to this vital healthcare service.

— Joshua St. Louis, MD, MPH, AAHIVS; Family Physician; Fellow, Physicians for Reproductive Health

This article contains several incorrect statements about post-24 week abortions. First, it contradicts itself by saying that the Roe Act would permit abortions after 24 weeks to protect the mother’s health, and then several paragraphs later, that current law already permits abortions after 24 weeks to protect the mother’s health. In fact, current law does permit abortions after 24 weeks, but only if the risk to the mother’s health is grave and arises from the continuation of the pregnancy itself, and only if the baby cannot be delivered alive without injuring the mother. The Roe Act repeals those limitations, and is apparently intended to permit an abortion after 24 weeks if the obstetrician believes the survival of the child would injure the mother’s health. That is homicide under current Massachusetts law.

Second, the article says that the Roe Act would permit abortions after 24 weeks in case of “diagnosed lethal fetal anomalies.” There’s nothing in the Roe Act referring to a diagnosis, and, contrary to what most people probably assume when they hear a reference to a “lethal” anomaly, the Act is drafted in such a way as to make it clear that “lethal” anomalies are not limited to conditions incompatible with sustained life after birth. The term, “lethal,” in regard to fetal conditions is often used in the medical literature to refer to conditions that are compatible with prolonged life after birth. More importantly, the Roe Act makes clear that the doctor who makes the decision whether an abortion is justified is only the doctor for the mother. A viable fetus is a person under Massachusetts law with the same rights as those of the mother. In effect, the Roe Act would authorize a doctor to perform active euthanasia on a person who is not his patient and who may not even have a doctor to represent his interests.

— John Harrington, email

An Open Letter to Northampton Adults

Authority-hungry members of the city’s Board of Health are unreasonably targeting Northampton adults’ rights to decide which legal products they can and cannot buy in town. The all-volunteer board, appointed by Mayor Narkewicz, is planning to restrict all tobacco products to adult-only stores at their January 16 meeting. There is just one adult-only store in town. Consequently, the health board is impinging an adult’s right to readily access legal adult products, risking outside litigation at significant taxpayer expense, and severely endangering your local convenience stores’ viability.

Hiding behind the claim of protecting youth, the board is charging forward with desperate, first-in-state extremism. But the products youth are using, flavored vapes, have already been banned in Massachusetts. The state even went a step further by banning menthol and mint traditional tobacco products effective June 1, 2020. The only tobacco products that remain on shelves of Northampton convenience stores are non-flavored traditional tobacco products which, the public health data proves, are adult-preferred products.

Furthermore, local data proves Northampton convenience stores do an exemplary job at keeping tobacco products out of the hands of youth. At the last Board of Health hearing, we presented publicly available FDA compliance data which showed 100% compliance by convenience stores since 2017. In fact, the only violation occurred at an adult-only store in town — the very store the Board of Health wants to entrust with more responsibility. Upon the conclusion of that meeting, a board member smugly challenged the FDA data saying it was “wrong” and their local compliance data “shows far worse compliance.” Wrong! The data provided by the Board of Health showed convenience stores earned a 95.7% compliance rate. Hardly far worse.

It is perfectly acceptable to dislike tobacco, but personal bias, and a disregard of facts has no place in government lawmaking. This unjust regulation puts Northampton convenience stores and the adult customers they serve in jeopardy. If you are indifferent because you are not a tobacco or nicotine user, please remember it may only be a matter of time before a liberty you do care about is stripped away simply because someone in government thinks they know what’s best for you.

— Jon Shaer, executive director of the New England Convenience Store and Energy Marketers Association