With its decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court precipitated a tidal wave of state-level legislation that strips impregnated people of their right to choose and puts their very lives in jeopardy. For those of us who live in Massachusetts, though, these changes may feel somewhat less ominous. Surely the right to obtain an abortion would never be threatened in our reliably liberal state–would it? As the former president of the Hampden County Bar Association – and, more recently, as a candidate for the Massachusetts Governor’s Council – I have a particular interest in this matter. And if recent events are any indication, now is not the time to become complacent. Just this week, by a 5-3 vote, the Governor’s Council approved the nomination of Claudine Cloutier to the Superior Court–despite the fact that, during her nomination hearing, Ms. Cloutier refused to affirm that she supports the right to abortion. In fact, it’s a matter of public record that Ms. Cloutier donated $100 to the National Right to Life organization. When asked by Councilor Eileen Duff about this donation in her hearing, she described it as a matter of personal “conscience,” while vowing to uphold the law. Councilor Duff then rightly pointed out that Ms. Cloutier’s answer sounded eerily reminiscent of those offered by then- Justices-to-be Amy Coney-Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh, and Neil Gorsuch during their confirmation hearings. We all know how that turned out: Roe wasn’t really “settled law” for them, after all. How can it be that at this point in our history, the question of the sovereignty of a person’s body is still unsettled? And moreover, how can it be that Massachusetts, a state that codified the ROE Act, one of the most progressive state laws guaranteeing the right to abortion, is elevating judges who testify this way? We can do better, and we must. We need members of the Governor’s Council who will stand for nothing less than reproductive freedom and are willing to call out Judge Alito’s opinion overturning Roe as the incoherent, legally flimsy mess that it is. Those of us who approach the Constitution as what Frederick Douglass called a “glorious liberty document” must defend it boldly and fiercely, as if lives depend on it, because they do. Our work is to ensure the expansion of the rights promised in our founding documents, and to promote an ever-widening notion of who counts in our democracy. Here in Massachusetts, we have an obligation to help everyone in this country get the healthcare they deserve. Let’s expand abortion access, support patients and providers, and increase research and education efforts. Let’s be prepared to welcome people from other states who are in need of reproductive care. And, crucially, let’s make sure we have judges who are committed to legal understandings that promote our rights and freedoms. The nomination of Ms. Cloutier makes it clear: This fight isn’t happening elsewhere, in other parts of the country. It’s happening here, and it’s happening now. We must be ready to win this fight.
Please find the hearing of Ms. Cloutier referenced above at this link including timestamps of comments: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MU4oDMYRafI 26:52 - Councilor Duff begins 27:00 - Duff questions Cloutier on financial donation to National Right to Life Org 28:50 - Direct question on abortion 29:47 - Cloutier dodges 31:27 - Duff passionately explains her concerns about SCOTUS and the fact 3 justices lied at their hearings 34:30 - Duff ends 34:31 - Councilor Kennedy remarks Cloutier's answers remind him of Kavanaugh