In the wake of the resignation of Justice Anthony Kennedy from the US Supreme Court, there’s been no little concern over the fate of the Roe v. Wade decision that established that the right to privacy extended to cover a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy. Back in June, Carole Levine said that a willingness to overturn Roe v. Wade was a prerequisite to be on Donald Trump’s list of potential replacements. (Well, the Heritage Foundation and Federalist Society’s list, more or less, but still.) Should the decision be overturned, the legality of abortion will once again devolve to the states—and Massachusetts has become the first state to act to keep it legal in a post-Kennedy, post-Roe world.
The legislature moved with haste to pass S.2260, which strikes from the Massachusetts General Laws several rules against “procuring a miscarriage” and other language that would prohibit an abortion. Although these statutes, some dating to 1845 or earlier, were considered unenforceable under Roe, they remained on the books nevertheless. This leads to the bill’s new acronymic moniker: the Negating Archaic Statues Targeting Young Women Act, or NASTY Women.
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Massachusetts State Senate President Harriette Chandler introduced a bill of this nature years ago, but in the face of the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh, which would move the SCOTUS further to the right, action became imperative. “I think people are beginning to realize these are strange times we live in,” she told Time. “Nothing is impossible, and we’ve got to have a ‘plan B.’ If these laws are enforced, what do we do? We’re not willing to sit back and say, ‘Well, it’s not going to happen here.’ The word for that is denial.”
NASTY Women was declared an “an emergency law, necessary for the immediate preservation of the public health.” Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, has already said he’d sign the bill. Time reports that other states, like New Mexico and New York are revving their engines, too.
Because of how deeply blue and pro-choice Massachusetts tends to run, some are questioning how necessary this law is. C.J. Doyle, executive director of the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts, called it “an exercise in posturing and pandering,” since “we’re a very long way from overturning Roe v. Wade.” And, in truth, Roe is pretty popular, even among Republicans. However, since the heir presumptive to Kennedy’s seat, Brett Kavanaugh, has left a clear trail of his opinion on the matter, even if he hasn’t gone on the record, it may be better to be safe than sorry when it comes to preserving a woman’s right to choose.—Jason Schneiderman