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Massachusetts Democratic AG rejects petition to protect infants born alive, calling it 'highly ambiguous' and 'impossible' for voters to understand

Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The office of Massachusetts Democratic Attorney General Maura Healey formally rejected this week a voter petition seeking to guarantee medical treatment to infants born alive after botched abortion procedures, calling the proposal "highly ambiguous" and arguing that it's "impossible to determine" its meaning.

What are the details?

The petition would have allowed Massachusetts residents the chance to amend state law to require that "if a child is born alive, all reasonable steps, in keeping with good medical practice, shall be taken to preserve the life of the child born alive."

But in a declination letter sent on Wednesday, Healey's deputy chief, Anne Sterman, announced the attorney general was unable to certify the measure as in "proper form for submission to the people" as required by state law.

"The proposed law contains several highly ambiguous provisions, which make it impossible for us to determine, and inform potential voters of, the meaning and effect of the proposed law," Sterman wrote, going on to nitpick the proposal's language with peculiar intensity.

"Specifically, the proposed law does not define 'a child born alive' or what is required to 'preserve the life of a child born alive,' nor does it specify what 'reasonable steps' must be taken or who 'shall' take them," she added. "These ambiguities make it impossible for a voter to know what 'general rule of conduct' is proscribed by this proposed law."

"Considering the commissions and unresolvable ambiguities described above, we cannot determine with certainty what the proposed law means or would do," she concluded.

What else?

In a press release issued Wednesday, the Massachusetts Republican Party slammed Healey's decision.

Massachusetts Newborn Protection Coalition Chairwoman Bernadette Lyons, who filed the petition, said in a statement that Healey's response is "an insult to the intelligence of Massachusetts voters that they cannot comprehend what a child born alive is."

"There's nothing at all ambiguous about any of this," she argued. "How is a legal guarantee to provide life-saving medical care for babies born alive ambiguous? It cannot get any clearer than that."

Massachusetts Republican Party Chairman Jim Lyons added that there's "absolutely no question" that the attorney general's past involvement with the abortion industry played a role in her decision.

"The attorney general's failure to put her political views aside constitutes a dereliction of her duty," he charged, adding her rejection of the ballot initiative serves as clear evidence that she is an "extension of NARAL and Planned Parenthood."

The press release included a list of campaign donations made to Healey by NARAL and Planned Parenthood amounting to nearly $10,000 since 2014.

Healey has also campaigned for abortion rights, appearing in a video with progressive lawmakers such as Democratic Rep. Ayanna Pressley and Democratic city council members Michelle Wu and Lydia Edward to promote the Act to Remove Obstacles and Expand Abortion Access.

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