For Immediate Release
Women's Bar Association of Massachusetts
Women's Bar Association of Massachusetts
email@example.com · 617-973-6666
WBA President Jennifer Saubermann Testifies in Support of the ROE Act
Dear WBA Members,
I was honored to testify on Monday on the WBA’s behalf before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary in support of H. 3320, An Act removing obstacles and expanding access to women's reproductive health, and S. 1209, An Act to remove obstacles and expand abortion access, jointly known as the ROE Act.
It is a matter of human rights, not just women’s rights, to allow women to make their own health decisions and promptly access care in our state. Outdated and medically unnecessary abortion laws have created often overwhelming barriers for women. Curtailing a woman’s reproductive freedom can have a negative effect on all aspects of her life. The ROE Act is a comprehensive piece of legislation that will dismantle these needless barriers, align laws governing abortion with those related to all other pregnancy-related care, and reform state law to affirm the Commonwealth’s commitment to individual rights and reproductive freedom. The WBA supports all aspects of this bill.
My testimony focused on the parental consent requirement, which has created an onerous judicial bypass process that teenagers must navigate to access safe, legal abortions.
In 1981, the WBA created the Judicial Consent for Minors Lawyer Referral Panel, a group of attorneys appointed by the court to represent young women seeking an abortion who could not or did not want to tell their parents or guardians, including because of fears of violence, disowning, and retaliation. We have learned that the current law has created significant impediments to young women accessing abortions without parental consent. As I told the legislature, lawyers representing minors in the judicial bypass process have reported that this system makes their clients feel like criminals rather than individuals in need accessing a legally protected right.
Since 1981 virtually every petition has been allowed. Overwhelmingly, judges have ruled that the young woman is mature enough to make her own decisions and give her own consent. It is not the outcome of the proceedings that is a problem and that fact should not be misconstrued to favor forcing the judicial bypass procedure. It shows that it is not necessary to subject women to such a traumatic and time-consuming process, one which also creates statistically and clinically significant delays. On average, young women who go before a judge must wait nearly a week longer for an abortion than young women who have received parental consent. The odds of becoming ineligible for medication abortion were significantly greater among judicial bypass abortions compared with parental consent abortions, and the judicial bypass system made it nearly 20% more likely that a minor would have to undergo a more onerous procedure due to delay in accessing abortion services. This is unacceptable.
Passing the ROE Act ensures protection and prompt care for the small percentage of young women who cannot turn to their parents or guardians when they experience an unintended pregnancy. Under the ROE Act, a young person will be supported by a trained medical professional in the Commonwealth who can recognize signs of abuse and coercion and can connect her to a network of support. The current process offers no support or protection, only judicial process, anxiety, and fear.
I was honored to testify with so many brave women who told their stories about how our current abortion laws have affected their lives. This is a very emotionally charged issue, and I thank you for taking the time to consider the WBA’s official position. I urge you all to reach out to your legislators in support of H. 3320 and S. 1209.
To learn more about the ROE Act and the WBA’s legislative priorities, visit https://wbawbf.org/legislative-priorities.
Please contact your legislators and ask them to support passage of the ROE Act. To find your legislators visit: https://malegislature.gov/Search/FindMyLegislator.
About the Women’s Bar Association of Massachusetts
Founded in 1978 by a group of activist women lawyers, the Women’s Bar Association boasts a large membership of accomplished women lawyers, judges, policy makers, and law students across Massachusetts. The WBA is committed to the full and equal participation of women in the legal profession and in a just society. The WBA works to achieve this mission through committees and taskforces, and by developing and promoting a legislative agenda to address society’s most critical social and legal issues. Other WBA activities include drafting amicus briefs, studying employment issues affecting women, encouraging women to enter the judiciary, recognizing the achievement of women in the law, and providing pro bono services to women in need through its sister organization, the Women’s Bar Foundation.
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