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BOSTON -- As pro-life advocates prepared to march for life in Washington, D.C. Massachusetts Citizens for Life (MCFL) geared up to advocate for life on Beacon Hill.
MCFL introduced five pieces of legislation before the deadline for the 189th Session of the General Court of Massachusetts, Jan. 16, as part of the 2015-2016 legislative agenda posted to their website that day.
The different bills aim to reduce the number of abortions in Massachusetts, protect the unborn and infants, and educate and inform the public about the value of human life.
One bill aimed to address the absence of licensing and inspection at some abortion facilities in Massachusetts -- the Women's Safety Act, sponsored by Rep. Elizabeth Poirier, R-Attleboro, and Rep. John Rogers, D-Norwood.
MCFL President Anne Fox called the bill the keystone of the MCFL legislative agenda, and said it would amend existing laws regarding the definition of the word "clinic."
The Women's Safety Act will push for licensure laws for abortion facilities in the state, like licensure laws that currently apply to hair-salons, restaurants, and veterinary clinics.
"Abortion is the most common surgical procedure in the country, so it's not as though we picked our favorite horse and tried to run with him. This is extremely important," she said.
MCFL announced plans in December to introduce the bill to mandate licensing of all facilities in the state that perform more than 10 abortions annually. The bill would also require inspections every two years for non-hospital abortion facilities in Massachusetts.
Barns used to house livestock receive annual inspections by state-appointed inspectors in many Massachusetts towns. Facilities where abortions are performed are currently not required to be inspected.
"It's not ludicrous that we care about the animals. It's a good idea that we care about the animals, but ludicrous that we would care less about women than about our animals," Fox said.
According to MCFL, 16 abortion facilities in the state are not licensed or inspected, which has cost at least one woman her life.
Laura Hope Smith died at a Hyannis abortion clinic in 2007, when her heart stopped during an abortion procedure. An investigation by the state Board of Registration in Medicine found that the clinic had no heart monitoring equipment, the blood pressure cuff used for her was broken, and staff members were not trained in CPR.
"When she died, and that made the authorities go in. They found there was virtually no medical equipment, (and) what was there didn't work. The blood pressure cuff didn't work. The people didn't know how to give CPR, or anything like that. So what you had was no, or inadequate equipment, and improper or no training," Fox said.
"We have, ever since Laura died, been trying to do things that would have helped," she added.
In November, the MCFL led the effort to place a non-binding ballot question before voters in 11 districts that instructed their state representatives to vote in favor of a bill like the Women's Safety Act. The question passed in all 11 districts.
"We found in getting signatures (to put the question on the ballot) that there were many people who were not pro-life who certainly agreed with us that these places should be licensed," Fox said.
The question gained more than 70 percent support in 8 of the districts and more than 60 percent in the remaining three.
The other legislation filed included:
-- The Women's Right to Know Act, also called "Laura's Law," sponsored by Rep. Elizabeth Poirier, R-Attleboro. Laura's Law seeks to offer women more complete information about abortion and fetal development, by giving women a chance to see a sonogram of their child and adding a 24-hour waiting period.
-- Massachusetts Partial-Birth Abortion Ban, sponsored by Rep. Kevin Kuros, R-Uxbridge, which would enforce the 2003 federal ban, upheld in 2007 by the Gonzales v. Carhart decision. MCFL said a state ban would ensure that offenders can be prosecuted in Massachusetts.
-- The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, sponsored by Poirier, which would prohibit abortions after 20 weeks, based on research that indicates that by the gestational age of 20 weeks unborn children actually feel pain during the abortion procedure.
-- The Taxpayer Conscience Protection Act, sponsored by Rep. Geoff Diehl, R-Whitman. The tax bill would allow taxpayers to indicate on their state tax return that they would like the portion of their taxes usually spent on government-funded abortions to instead fund the Baby Safe Haven program -- a 2004 law that allows a parent to legally surrender newborn infants 7 days old or younger at a hospital, police station, or manned fire station without facing criminal prosecution.
Fox anticipated resistance to each piece of legislation. She maintained that supporters of abortion frequently give abortion a kind of priority that corrupts the law as it applies to women's safety, creating what she called a "twilight zone" for laws aimed at women's health that might curtail abortions.
"Abortion trumps everything else, whether it's women's safety or children who are born as a result of abortion that are alive. They are only looking at abortion," she said.
For more information on the 2015-2016 legislative agenda visit masscitizensforlife.org.