Category: Daily Free Press

Massachusetts advocacy groups file contrasting abortion legislation

January 31, 2019 12:04 am by Sofia Saric

Across the country and Massachusetts, reproductive rights groups are advocating for increased protections for abortion access, as it was recently the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that legalized abortion in the United States, on Jan. 22.

More than 70 organizations rallied for more extensive abortion legislation for Commonwealth residents at the Massachusetts State House on Jan. 17 during Sexual Health Lobby Day, according to a press release from the Coalition for Choice.

The rally was led by NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts, the ACLU of Massachusetts and Massachusetts Family Planning Association.

For the 2019 legislative session, advocates have proposed An Act to Remove Obstacles and Expand Abortion Access, or the ROE Act, which would eliminate needing parental consent for an abortion and improve affordable access by eliminating other provisions.

The bill is sponsored by Massachusetts Senate President Emerita Harriette Chandler, Speaker Pro Tempore Patricia Haddad and State Representative Jay Livingstone.

The ROE Act reforms state law to remove restrictions on abortion, including allowing access to abortion in certain cases of fetal anomalies after the 24-week mark and permitting teenagers to have access to abortion without parental consent.

At the Massachusetts State House on the Sexual Health Lobby Day, Chandler said the bill ensures that women’s healthcare is on the frontlines of the legislative agenda.

“The ROE Act breaks down barriers that women still face when trying to access abortion and contraceptive care,” Chandler said. “I am proud to sponsor this bill in honor of all the women who came before me and struggled to get the services they needed.”

Chandler said her efforts are motivated by the prospect of a better future.

“I will fight for the ROE Act so that future generations may live in a safer and healthier world,” Chandler said.

Not all believe that these efforts to increase abortion access are needed, however.

President of pro-life organization Massachusetts Citizens for Life, Anne Fox, said while she recognizes the legal possibility to expand abortion rights, she thinks there is no need for state abortion expansion because it is already accessible.

“They talk about access,” Fox said. “Well, in Massachusetts no one, no woman, is more than an hour at most from an abortion facility. It is less than an hour to get there.”

These already adequate forms of accessible help, Fox said, make the prospect of further accessibility difficult to imagine.  

“It is kind of hard to think how you could expand it,” Fox said.

Massachusetts Citizens for Life, alongside other pro-life groups, is looking to pass legislation as well.

Fox said the organization filed state bills this January that would fight coercion and increase educational information about abortion provided in clinics and schools.

“You take your dog in for surgery, you get a whole lot of information,” Fox said. “If you go in for an abortion, you get very little information. This would require that the people at the abortion facilities tell a women what is involved in the whole process.”

Carmen Hernandez, 52, of Back Bay, said although the possibility for new abortion access legislation could be a positive thing, abortion can still be upsetting.

“In a way, it is a mixed blessing,” Hernandez said. “A lot of young people aren’t always ready for parenthood.”

Katherine Burke, 19, of Fenway, said that she is pro-choice because she believes that situationally, abortion can sometimes be the best, or only, option for some women.

“There are certain instances where abortion is not the best answer,” Burke said. “However, there are other cases where it might be necessary, or it might be better for the mother to get an abortion.”

Saloni Jain, 23, of Brookline, said she believes legislation to improve abortion access could be a positive change.  

“If it makes it easier, then it is good,” Jain said.

https://dailyfreepress.com/blog/2019/01/31/massachusetts-advocacy-groups-file-contrasting-abortion-legislation/

Energy & Environment – Clean Energy

Last Wednesday, more than 30 student activists from seven campuses around the state joined Environment Massachusetts and MASSPIRG students to advocate for a 100 percent renewable energy future. Students met with over 20 legislators at the State House to support legislation that would set a goal of 100 percent renewable energy for Massachusetts.

As an Environment Massachusetts Direct Outreach intern, I had been planning this student lobby day for the last three months. I had set up and confirmed meetings with state representatives, reached out to student organizations and department heads across the state, put together informational packets for both the students and legislators — all in the name of clean energy. And it absolutely paid off.

When we arrived at the State House, students began to head to meetings of the legislators in their district. I started the day attending meetings with Sen. Brownsberger’s chief of staff and Rep. Livingstone. Initially, I was nervous — I had never directly engaged with senators or representatives before, and I thought to myself, “Will these legislators actually take me seriously?” Coming out of those meetings, I felt a new wave of accomplishment and inspiration. It was pleasantly surprising to hear how supportive my representatives were of clean energy, and their plans to continue implementing it in legislation.

BU has a wide variety of environmentally-focused organizations on campus, as well as clubs that include the environment as one of the many issues they focus on. Last December, the Boston University Board of Trustees approved a Climate Action Plan, which included extremely ambitious clean energy solutions. BU has committed to purchasing 100 percent of its electricity from renewable resources, while also working toward reducing carbon emissions to zero by 2040.

While BU is on the right track to sustainability, Massachusetts as a whole needs to do much more, and at a much faster speed to achieve a safe and sustainable future. Our generation has the most to lose from the health and climate impacts of fossil fuels, so it is critical that we urge our state leaders to commit to 100 percent renewable energy and accelerate our progress toward that goal.

Momentum is building for decisive climate action and ambitious renewable energy leadership. Along with BU, several campuses and communities across the state are stepping up to embrace a visionary goal of 100 percent renewable energy. Seven cities and towns, from Amherst to Cambridge, have already committed to a goal of 100 percent renewable energy. MassPIRG students and Environment Massachusetts student activists have been organizing for bold clean energy plans on campuses around the state, and now they are pushing for statewide legislation.

But there is good news: Massachusetts has just taken a big step toward 100 percent renewable energy when a Senate committee signed a clean energy bill.

The Senate Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change, led by Chairman Marc Pacheco, released legislation that would put Massachusetts on a path to achieve 100 percent renewable electricity by 2035 and power other sectors of the economy, like heating and transportation, with 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. The bill, entitled “An Act to promote a clean energy future,” is the first major piece of clean energy legislation to move forward in the 2017-2018 legislative session.

The Senate global warming committee’s bill aims to address obstacles to clean energy development and accelerate the growth of solar, wind, and energy efficiency. The bill includes most of the provisions of the 100 percent renewable energy act, filed by Senator Eldridge, last January.

This winter, Massachusetts’ coastal communities experienced record high tides and unprecedented flooding, underscoring the ways that climate change is already affecting our communities and the impacts we can expect to see in the future, unless we move quickly to reduce carbon pollution. According to a recent report, sea levels could rise seven to 10 feet in the Boston area by the end of the century if global warming continues on its current trajectory. BU’s own Center for Integrated Life Sciences and Engineering, the new state-of-the-art research center, was created with rising sea levels in mind, housing the mechanical and electrical necessities for the building to run on the second and third floor instead of the basement. While it’s smart to prepare for the worst, why not also try to prevent the worst?

We need to go beyond incremental progress and embrace a vision of 100 percent renewable energy. We have the opportunity to tackle the climate crisis while building a healthier, greener future and a strong economy. Bills like “An Act to promote a clean energy future” and the 100 percent renewable energy act will help us do just that.

During the meetings with representatives, students also shared the findings of Environment Massachusetts Research and Policy Center’s new report with state legislators. The report, “Wind Power to Spare: The Enormous Energy Potential of Atlantic Offshore Wind,” finds that Massachusetts could produce more energy from offshore wind than any other state.

According to the report, Massachusetts’ offshore wind potential is equivalent to more than 19 times the state’s annual electricity consumption. If all heating and transportation in Massachusetts were converted from fossil fuels to electric power, offshore wind could still produce eight times as much energy as the Commonwealth consumes each year. So it’s not a question of if we will power Massachusetts with 100 percent renewable energy, it’s a question of when. Offshore wind will play a critical role in our clean, renewable future. The sooner we can tap into our offshore wind potential, the better off we’ll be.

In August of 2016, Gov. Charlie Baker committed Massachusetts to purchasing 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind. After the passage of this bill, several other states adopted similar measures in their efforts to commit to renewable energy resources. Make no mistake, when Massachusetts makes a step toward progressiveness, other states will follow.

Massachusetts should get back to first place for renewable energy and fulfill our potential. We will continue raising our voices to call for a future where our environment is protected, our communities are safe, our air is healthy and our state is leading in renewable energy technology. A transition 100 percent clean energy is crucial in leading our country toward a sustainable, healthier future for us all.

Samantha Delgado