A Massachusetts politician who said abortion is needed so babies with disabilities wouldn’t be born — and become drains on the system — was voted to remain as chair of the local Democratic party. But after backlash, he resigned.
Last month, Michael Hugo spoke in a city council meeting about keeping pregnancy resource centers out of Framingham, Massachusetts. Hugo, who is chairman of the Framingham Democratic Committee, said the community would be burdened if women who receive a prenatal disability diagnosis are not able to obtain abortions.
“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,” he said. “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.”
The comments quickly ignited an uproar, with many calling for Hugo’s resignation, including Framingham Democrats. Yet in a recent meeting, the Framingham Democratic Committee voted to keep Hugo in his position as chairman. That decision has led many to believe that committee members agree with Hugo’s sentiments, and were merely angry that Hugo made the mistake of speaking them aloud.
Hugo himself also promised to apologize for his comments at the next city council meeting, but then didn’t show up, claiming he got the dates “confused.”
“I thought he would be here this evening because he said he would be here this evening and would apologize publicly,” city council chair Philip Ottaviani said during the meeting. “I know he mentioned the other night he’d be in D.C., and tonight he texted me that he was in D.C. and unable to attend.”
Ottoviani shared the text message he received from Hugo the night of the meeting with Fox News; Hugo was responding to the question of him appearing via Zoom to address citizens still angry over his comments.
“I am in DC and I am unable to join you,” the text read. “I issued my apology the night of your meeting and am not going to belabor the issue further. I am at a dinner reception for a couple of Congress members and 3 senators.”
It was an excuse that didn’t seem to garner much goodwill. “If Mr. Hugo had stepped down and we had leadership on the Framingham Dems, this would have gone away,” Ottoviani said at the meeting. “All I wanted was a discussion to move forward but it’s loud and clear that no one is resigning.”
Jon Fetherston, the father of a child with special needs, has been organizing protests in response to Hugo’s comments, and said his unwillingness to appear at the meeting as promised shows Hugo’s true colors.
“His insincere apology and ability to not even come and face the city council tonight shows you the true character of Michael Hugo. His character is flawed and I’m extremely disappointed,” Fetherston told Fox News. “It just proved once again that his apology is extremely disingenuous. He didn’t even have the dignity to pick up the phone and call and apologize to the city council, so I think his actions speak so much louder than his pathetic words.”
Janet Leombruno, vice chair of the Framingham City Council, said many don’t believe Hugo’s apology, and also agreed that he should resign. “These kids have a right to be born,” she said. “We need to stand up for them.”
The backlash eventually did lead Hugo to resign, yet he remained defiant. In an e-mailed statement to Fox News, he said, “I have apologized profusely too many times, but it seems obvious to all objective observers that there is something unusual about this particular crisis, in that it has an extraordinary life,” he said. “Time will tell as to why this has become a — literally — international story, and why it has been amplified by the Chair of the Ashland Republican Committee.”
However, the resignation was called for by Karen Spilka, the president of the Massachusetts State Senate — who is also a Democrat.
“As the sister and long-time legal guardian of a sister with Down syndrome, I have dedicated my career to advocating for the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities, and my life to raising awareness of the challenges they face and the opportunities they deserve,” she said. “It is in the best interest of the community that he steps aside.”
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