By Bob Katzen
The House 137-16, Senate 40-0, approved and Governor Charlie Baker signed into law a bill designed to further protect reproductive health care and those who perform abortions in the Bay State. The measure specifically declares that both reproductive health care and gender-affirming care are rights secured by the constitution or laws of Massachusetts and would shield providers of reproductive and gender-affirming care and their patients from out-of-state legal action. The measure would ensure that patients over 24 weeks of pregnancy are able to receive an abortion in Massachusetts because of a grave fetal diagnosis that indicates the fetus is incompatible with sustained life outside of the uterus without extraordinary medical interventions and requires that those decisions are made between the patient and their treating physician.
Other provisions include preventing the state’s cooperation with anti-abortion and anti-gender-affirming care laws in other states; mandating health insurance coverage for abortion and abortion-related care with no cost-sharing; ensuring access to emergency contraception; and providing confidentiality to providers of reproductive and gender-affirming care; clarifying that vending machines may dispense over-the-counter drugs, such as Plan B – the “morning after” pill; and ensuring access to medication abortion on all public college and university campuses.
“Massachusetts remains steadfast in its commitment to protect access to reproductive health care services, especially in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade,” said Gov. Charlie Baker. “The court’s decision has major consequences for women across the country who live in states with limited access to these services, and our administration took quick action in the hours following that decision by issuing an Executive Order to protect access here in the commonwealth. This new legislation signed today builds on that action by protecting patients and providers from legal interference from more restrictive laws in other states.”
“Everyone deserves the right to decide whether and when to start a family, no matter where they live, how much money they make, or who they are,” said Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “But across half the states, millions of people are in danger of losing that right after the Supreme Court’s shameful decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. As extremist politicians in other states move to ban or severely restrict abortion, Massachusetts lawmakers have stepped up to meet the moment and lead in the other direction, passing a historic law that makes care more affordable and available.”
“With this bill, the Legislature gave Planned Parenthood a blank check to rewrite our commonwealth’s abortion laws, and Gov. Baker signed it for them,” said Andrew Beckwith, executive director of the Massachusetts Family Institute. “Beacon Hill is working to make Massachusetts a regional hub for late term abortion and to undermine every pro-life law in the nation.”
“In the face of an increasing amount of anti-abortion and anti-gender-affirming care laws enacted across the country, Massachusetts continues to serve as a national leader in protecting these essential rights with the passage of this legislation,” said Sen. Cindy Friedman (D-Arlington), the lead sponsor of the measure and Senate chair of the Committee on Health Care Financing. “We must do everything we can to protect the rights of our providers, patients and visitors to the commonwealth.
“As a candidate for governor in 2014, Charlie Baker was sold as a Bill Weld style Republican—socially liberal but fiscally conservative,” said Catholic Action League Executive Director C.J. Doyle. “The abortion expansion bill which he signed … imposes new burdens on taxpayers and business owners, increases the scope of government—with state colleges now dispensing Plan B abortion pills—and denies personal freedom of choice for those opposed to abortion. There is no conscience clause for pharmacists, business owners or non-profit organizations, and the religious exemption is so narrowly drawn that most Catholic educational institutions will not qualify under it. Baker’s legacy on this legislation is one of higher spending, bigger government, and less personal freedom.”
“In the face of five individuals on our Supreme Court deciding to allow states to treat women as second-class citizens by denying them the federal right to control their own bodies, I am proud that we in Massachusetts instead have reaffirmed that women do indeed have equal rights and privacy interests that we will always defend,” said Rep. Mike Day (D-Stoneham), House Chair of the Committee on the Judiciary. “This bill tells other states who would roll back women’s rights that their laws will have no effect on our residents, that we will protect our health professionals who offer legal health care services and that the decision to have a child will not be dictated by a state law or access to healthcare.”
“Gov. Baker wasted no time in signing the expanded abortion bill … into law on Friday,” said Patricia Stewart, executive director of Massachusetts Citizens for Life. “Disappointing as this news is, it only strengthens our resolve to work to pass protective pro-life measures that will safeguard women facing unplanned pregnancies and their unborn children from the insatiable, abortion-hungry apostles of death in this commonwealth. We must elect pro-life legislators with the courage to stand up for their convictions and the confidence to affirm publicly that every life is sacred. This goal may seem beyond reach in Massachusetts, but we fight on the side of the angels. So take heart, we have just begun.”
(A “Yes” vote is for the bill. A “No” vote is against the bill).
Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Mike Connolly Yes Rep. Erika Uyterhoeven Yes Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes