The Massachusetts Senate has followed the House in adopting a budget amendment that would revamp the state's abortion laws during a lame-duck session. The Senate vote was 33-7.

The vote means Republican Governor Charlie Baker, who is pro-choice, must decide whether or not to veto the measure or just allow it to become law. Since the Massachusetts Legislature is compromised almost entirely of Democrats, a Baker veto would most likely be overridden.

The somewhat less radical budget amendment draws on the controversial ROE Act legislation that failed to make it out of the House Judiciary Committee by last week's deadline.

State House News Service reports the Senate amendment, like one passed by the House, would "allow abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy in cases with a diagnosed fatal fetal anomaly and lower the age above which a woman can seek the procedure without parental or court approval from 18 to 16." It's a slow walk towards achieving the ultimate goal of eliminating almost all restrictions on abortion, regardless of age.

By attaching such an important policy issue to the budget for the fiscal year that began more than four months ago, lawmakers violate their standards for linking the two. They also deny opponents their right to public hearings on the expansion of abortion rights in Massachusetts.

Supporters of the amendment say it is important to codify abortion rights in the Commonwealth since President Donald Trump has made three appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court. Something they say, without any evidence, places Roe v. Wade in danger of being overturned.

Lawmakers who refuse to debate such important policy changes in public and deny their constituents an opportunity to be heard through public hearings are cowards, plain and simple.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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