A local Democratic official in Framingham, Massachusetts, is facing backlash after comments he made at a city council meeting in which he said he feared disabled children place an undue burden on local taxpayers if their parents do not abort them.

Michael Hugo, who serves as the chairman for the Framingham Democratic Committee and as the director of policy and government relations for the Massachusetts Association of Health Boards, made these comments while voicing his opposition to pro-life pregnancy centers. The subject of abortion came up in the context of the consideration of a proposal to declare the city council’s support for “reproductive rights,” a proclamation that Hugo supports.

“Our fear is that if an unqualified sonographer misdiagnoses a heart defect, an organ defect, spina bifida or an encephalopathic defect that becomes a very local issue because our school budget will have to absorb the cost of a child in special education, supplying lots and lots of special services to children, who were born with the defect,” Hugo told the city council.

In his apology, Hugo said his comments “were poorly drafted [and] hastily put together” and added that “they did not accurately reflect the meaning of what I was trying to say.” He did not explain what he had meant to say.

“The bottom line is that I owe you an apology without any excuses or equivocation, because my innermost feelings tell me that it is the right thing to do, especially when I know in my heart of hearts that I have upset people I truly care for and about,” the apology read in part. “In closing, I have nothing but gratitude for the services, education, and love Framingham has shown our family over the years.”

Hugo faced substantial backlash from pro-life groups and others. Myrna Maloney Flynn, the president of Massachusetts Citizens for Life, told CNA that she was “disheartened” by his comments but that she “wasn’t too surprised” about what he said.

“It is consistent with today’s underlying cultural current,” Flynn said. “Few who call themselves ‘pro-choice’ will admit it, but the sort of discrimination and selectivity Hugo referenced has been central to the pro-abortion message for some time. In recent years, ‘fetal anomalies’ has become a common and acceptable justification for elective abortion up to birth, particularly here in Massachusetts when the ROE Act was passed early in 2021. If one follows that tragic line of reasoning, then it becomes logical to equate a prenatal diagnosis with significant disruption to a community.”

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, released a statement in which she said Hugo’s comments “reflect the formal position of leading Democrats who refuse to name a single limit on abortion they support.”

“The abortion lobby is wildly out of step with the American people in treating children with a disability as a commodity and a tax burden — the opposite of their families’ experience. Tragically, parents all too often face pressure to abort based on fear and stereotypes, resulting in as many as 67% of unborn children with Down syndrome being aborted in the United States. But as people with Down syndrome themselves report — and as those who love them are well aware — 99% of these individuals lead happy lives.”

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Flynn said that pro-life pregnancy centers have been “disparaged” by other elected leaders and the media. She cited Gov. Maura Healey, who as attorney general accused the centers of using “deceptive and coercive tactics” against patients. In the same news release, Sen. Elizabeth Warren said she would “keep fighting in Congress to stop these harmful practices nationwide.”

Flynn said some residents, just like Hugo, believe “false information spread by these supposed sources of truth.”

“We have organized a network of centers with the dual mission of building public awareness of their good, life-affirming work and furthering their reach in order to help more women and families,” Flynn added.

“Massachusetts Citizens for Life is proud to sponsor Pregnancy Care Alliance (PCALL). The alliance is in its infancy, as we just finalized our mission statement a few days ago and are in the process of building out our websites. One will serve the educational purpose of PCALL, and a separate site just for women will launch in the spring.”