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Governor vetoes emergency contraception bill, override likely

By Christine Tolfree
Posted: 7/29/2005

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With a veto from Gov. Mitt Romney this week the emergency contraception bill heads back to the House and Senate where the veto will likely be overridden. The bill originally passed the legislature with a veto-proof majority.

If the bill becomes law, it would make the morning-after pill, a high dose of the hormones used in contraceptives, available over-the-counter at pharmacies and mandate that hospitals provide the medication to rape victims.

The medication has two potential effects. It can prevent conception, but it can also thin the lining of the uterus— preventing an already conceived embryo from implanting, acting as an abortifacient.

"Because of the abortifacient nature of emergency contraception in the event that the woman is pregnant, it would change abortion law. It would be mandatory abortion at medical facilities," said Maria Parker, associate director of public policy for the Massachusetts Catholic Conference.

Parker added that making the pill available without a prescription and with no age restrictions, would bypass parental consent laws in Massachusetts that require the consent of parents before their children obtain abortions.

"Now you have open abortion with no age limit, no parental involvement, no regulatory aspect in place and no doctor involved," she said.

"This is a very dangerous drug. If a woman has an allergy to this or has high risk involved with heart trouble or possible stroke, this medication could be very seriously harmful to her. Yet there's no one to supervise that," she added. "The pharmacist may know the medication, but he does not know her medical history."

"This puts young women in harms way, and to me that's irresponsible of the legislature to do that," Parker continued.

"If a woman presents [herself] to an emergency room at a Catholic hospital, we test to see if she is pregnant, and if she's not pregnant we will give emergency contraception to her. If she's pregnant, we will not," she said. "We cannot provide abortions at our Catholic institutions."

Church teaching supports providing emergency contraceptives to rape victims who are not pregnant since it can be considered a form of defense against an unjust agression.

Catholic hospitals were concerned that this bill would require them to provide emergency contraceptives to rape victims whether or not the woman had conceived. However, an existing statute seems to provide a conscience exemption for private hospitals.

Parker encouraged Catholics to contact their legislators in support of sustaining Romney’s veto.

"We had a lot of people who usually vote pro-life vote for this bill," she said.

"We're pleased that the governor vetoed it because we sent a letter to him asking him to," she added. "He's really stepping up to the plate."

Romney, who said he supported increased access to emergency contraceptives on a Planned Parenthood questionnaire in 2002, explained his opposition to the bill in a July 26 Boston Globe opinion piece.

"Signing such a measure into law would violate the promise I made to the citizens of Massachusetts when I ran for governor. I pledged that I would not change our abortion laws either to restrict abortion or facilitate it," he wrote.

Romney went on to say that he is pro-life and understands that this view is the minority in Massachusetts.

"I believe that abortion is the wrong choice except in cases of incest, rape and to save the life of the mother. I wish the people of America agreed, and that the laws of our nation could reflect that view," he wrote. "In some respects, these convictions have evolved and deepened during my time as governor. In considering the issue of embryo cloning and embryo farming, I saw where the harsh logic of abortion can lead -- to the view of innocent new life as nothing more than research material or a commodity to be exploited."

Romney also said he is concerned about the bill’s lack of parental consent.

"What's more, this particular bill does not require parental consent even for young teenagers. It disregards not only the seriousness of abortion but the importance of parental involvement and so would weaken a protection I am committed to uphold," he wrote.