Cambridge voters last Tuesday endorsed a referendum calling for the repeal of Massachusetts' abortion laws by almost a 2-to-1 margin.
The referendum, which was on the ballot in 18 cities and towns throughout the state, instructs district representatives in the state legislature to vote for repeal of the current laws. However, the referendum is not legally binding.
Joseph Riley, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, charged yesterday that pro-abortion activists had sought to put the abortion question to a referendum only in those localities likely to endorse the repeal of existing statutes.
He said that petitions necessary to put the question on the ballot were filed with state officials one day before the deadline. He also charged that this was a deliberate maneuver to prevent anti abortionists from mounting an effective publicity campaign.
Robin Taylor, who as chairperson of the Abortion Task Force of the National Organization for Women organized the effort to put the referendum on the ballot, responded yesterday to Riley's charges.
Taylor said that the petitions were tiled at least 90 days before the election, as required by law, and that signatures were collected only in certain localities because the Massachusetts House of Representatives voted last March not to hold a statewide referendum.
She also said that the only towns in which she had been confident the referendum would win were Newton, Brookline, and Cambridge.
Final results on the referendum are not yet available because canvassing of ballots has not yet been completed in the larger cities. The town of Belmont defeated the referendum while the town of Newton approved it.