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Massachusetts

Post-Viability Abortion Restriction

Massachusetts' post-viability abortion restriction states that, after 24 weeks, no abortion may be provided unless necessary to preserve the woman's life or to prevent a "substantial risk of grave impairment of her physical or mental health."  The physician must take all reasonable steps, consistent with the procedure used and good medical practice, to preserve the life and health of the fetus.  Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 112, § 12M (Enacted 1974; Last Renumbered 1977), 12P (Enacted 1974; Last Renumbered 1977).

NARAL Pro-Choice America supports the legal framework established in Roe v. Wade and does not oppose restrictions on post-viability abortion so long as they contain adequate exceptions to protect the woman's life and health.  NARAL Pro-Choice America opposes Massachusetts' post-viability restriction because the health exception is dangerously narrow.  NARAL Pro-Choice America further opposes this law because it is unconstitutional to the extent that it prohibits pre-viability abortion by defining viability at 24 weeks.  A state may not prohibit abortion prior to viability, which is that point at which a fetus is capable of "meaningful life" outside a woman's body.  Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 163 (1973).  Because viability is a point that varies with each pregnancy, states may not declare that it occurs at a particular gestational age.  Colautti v. Franklin, 439 U.S. 379, 388-89 (1979).


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