Gov. Baker Repeals Old Law Criminalizing Abortion In Massachusetts

charlie baker bill sign

Gov. Charlie Baker signs a bill to repeal old anti-abortion laws that were still on the books in Massachusetts. (

BOSTON (WBZ-AM) -- Gov. Charlie Baker took care of a bit of legislative housekeeping Friday morning, repealing an old law that criminalized abortion and prohibited prescribing contraceptives to unmarried women. 

The law, dating back to 1845, has not been enforced as long as anyone can recall, but it remained on the books until today--despite the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision upholding a woman's right to choose. Baker wiped that old law away with the swipe of his pen, saying it was about time--and that those laws didn't represent the state's leadership or the shared goal of protecting women's access to health care.

"We still had a series of laws on the books, some dating back to the 1800s, that create all sorts of obstacles to reproductive healthcare," Gov. Baker explained. "Given the context at the federal level, and the ongoing sort of intensity of the debate about some of these issues in D.C., we simply felt, both the legislature and the administration, that we should clean up the state's books with respect to these issues and resolve them once and for all."

The protection of abortion rights is an issue that has been brought to the forefront recently with the retirement of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and President Donald Trump's nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to fill his place. 

"I think the biggest issue on reproductive rights right now is going to be the Supreme Court discussion in front of the Senate with respect to Justice Kavanaugh," Gov. Baker said. "And I've said many times that I think that the Senate needs to exercise its 'advise and consent' responsibilities, especially with respect to the precedent issues associated with Roe, as part of that review process."

NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts Executive Director Rebecca Hart Holder told WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Mike Macklin that the repeal of the old law marked a historic day for the Commonwealth.

"We're the first state in the nation after President Trump nominated Judge Kavanaugh--who poses an existential threat to Roe--we're the first state to take a criminal abortion ban off the books," Holder said. "What we're saying here in Massachusetts is that we draw the line, and we will not let the women and families of Massachusetts be at risk if Roe is threatened."

She said her group believes that the Roe v. Wade decision is either going to be dismantled or overturned, and that they're "preparing here in Massachusetts for that eventuality." She said she believes Gov. Baker is a firm supporter of women's rights.

"We are thrilled with the fact that we have a governor who is standing up for a woman's right to choose," she said.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Mike Macklin reports

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