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Effort underway to end taxpayer funding of abortion in Mass.


Attorney Thomas Harvey speaks on the effort to amend the state constitution to taxpayer funding of abortion at a meeting of American University Women for Life in Needham Sept. 5. Pilot photo/Jacqueline Tetrault

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NEEDHAM -- "It's not the fiscal issue that motivates me, it's the moral issue," attorney Thomas Harvey said, addressing the American University Women for Life at their Sept. 5 meeting in the Knights of Columbus Hall in Needham.

Harvey is leading an effort to end state funding for abortion in Massachusetts. He is the chairman of the Massachusetts Alliance to Stop Taxpayer Funded Abortions and treasurer of the Pro-Life Legal Defense Fund.

About 25 to 30 people came to hear Harvey talk about his work at American University Women for Life's monthly meeting. The AUWL is the pro-life offshoot of the Association of American University Women, whose pro-life members resigned in protest of the Association's collaboration with national organizations that support abortion.

Harvey began his talk by explaining how he first became involved with the pro-life movement over 30 years ago. He was inspired, he said, when he heard the late Supreme Judicial Court Justice Joseph Nolan talk about the pro-life cause, which Nolan considered "the most important temporal issue."

"Other than saving souls, what's more important than abortion? Because every other issue is secondary. Every other issue is concerned with the quality of life, where abortion concerns life itself, the destruction of an innocent human life," Harvey said.

Harvey served on the board of Massachusetts Citizens for Life for 20 years, sometimes as its chairman. About eight years ago, he wondered why the pro-life movement was not faring better in Massachusetts, and began doing legal research to figure out why.

"We're not really making any progress. We're always playing defense," Harvey said.

The Hyde Amendment prohibits federal funding of abortions, except in cases of rape, incest, or danger to the life of the mother. However, Harvey learned that Massachusetts still subsidizes abortions through Medicaid. The 1981 case Moe v. Secretary of Administration and Finance ruled that under the Massachusetts state constitution, abortion is a constitutional right and that the state should pay for abortions for indigent women.

After learning this, Harvey began campaigning to amend the state constitution by initiative petition, which follows a four-step process.

The first step is to collect signatures amounting to three percent of voters in the previous gubernatorial election in a nine-week period. This means collecting 80,239 certified signatures by Nov. 20, 2019.

Trainings are conducted so people know how to collect signatures, which must be gathered by hand rather than online. If a sheet of signatures has a stray mark, highlighting, or stains on it, the whole sheet is thrown out. In a memorandum distributed at the AUWL meeting, Harvey said that because many signatures are likely to be invalidated for various reasons, over 100,000 signatures are necessary. Harvey told the meeting attendees that the Alliance's current goal is to recruit 1,000 volunteers and have each volunteer collect 100 signatures.

Next, one-quarter of the present legislature (40 out of 200 legislators) would need to vote to advance the amendment. After that, one-quarter of the next elected legislature must do the same. If those hurdles are met, the proposed amendment would go before voters on the 2022 ballot. A majority vote would then be necessary to amend the constitution.

In its currently proposed language, the amendment would state, "Nothing in this constitution requires the public funding of abortion."

This is not the first time Harvey has led such a campaign. In 2015, the Alliance collected about 30,000 signatures. In 2017, after the Renew Massachusetts Coalition got involved in the effort, 57,000 signatures were collected.

"We might be able to succeed here. And even if we don't succeed, we're making it an issue. We're talking about it. Because if we don't talk about it, nothing's ever going to change," Harvey said.

The talk was followed by a question-and-answer session after which Robert Joyce, president of the Pro-Life Legal Defense Fund, led the attendees in singing a song he wrote as an anthem of the pro-life movement.

Christine Carr, a pregnancy resource center co-founder who attended the meeting, told The Pilot she was pleased to hear Harvey's talk and meet new people at the event.

"I think we do have to take every opportunity to try to inspire people to realize that the Golden Rule is being broken if we don't defend the most defenseless among us," Carr said.

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