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When No Means Yes

Taking Note

By Amy N. Ripich

SOMETIMES A SIMPLE "yes" or "no" can be very confusing. On Proposition 1 on the upcoming November ballot, for example, yes means no to abortion rights, and no means yes to them.

If passed, the proposition could make abortion illegal in the state of Massachusetts. It would give the state legislature the power to eliminate public funding for abortion, a power that the legislature has indicated it will use. This means there would no assistance for women who are too poor to pay for an abortion.

In fact, "yes" could eventually deprive all Massachusetts citizens of the right to obtain a safe and legal abortion, because the proposition would eliminate Medicaid funding and eliminate the legal obligation for private insurance companies to provide coverage for abortions. This means UHS would no longer be legally required to cover abortions for Harvard students.

The issue is, however, not just one of money. The amendment to the state constitution proposed in Proposition 1, gives the legislature the power to regulate facilities which now provide abortions. Far from a benevolent gesture, this is a mandate empowering the state to deny licenses to carry out abortions to hospitals, clinics and private practitioners. Most important, it allows the state to make an abortion impossible to obtain in Massachusetts, even if abortion remains legal in the eyes of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Proposition 1 provides no exceptions for rape or incest victims, however it miraculously and magnanimously allows abortions "required to prevent the death of the mother." Note the use of the word mother instead of pregnant woman. Whose mother? This is not neutral language. Even though the proposed amendment was not written to decide the question of when life begins, the assumption here is that abortion means a mother killing her baby, not a woman terminating her pregnancy.

SUPPOSE THE U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, the historic 1972 decision legalizing abortion in all states--an increasingly likely prospect given the new make-up of the Court. Under the proposed amendment the Massachusetts legislature would have the power to make abortion illegal in this state without a statewide referendum at that time.

Polls show Massachusetts voters to be overwhelmingly pro-choice. But the convoluted wording of this proposition--there are double negative phrases throughout--and expected low voter turnout could throw the vote in favor of the amendment.

Anti-choicers have something to gain, and nothing to lose. Pro-choicers should be aware of the immediacy of the situation; if the proposition passes, Massachusetts' constitutional protection of abortion will be gone. The voice of the electorate will be gone too.

Voting no keeps the decision out of the hands of the state legislature. Voting no keeps abortion safe and legal in this state.

Voting no keeps things the same.

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