In Massachusetts and nationwide, the ACLU fights laws and government policies preventing people’s access to contraception, abortion, and accurate information about sexual and reproductive health. This has included challenging government interference with the right to obtain reproductive health care including abortion and contraception, abstinence-only education in schools, mistreatment of pregnant people who are incarcerated, discrimination against pregnant workers, targeted regulations of abortion providers, and so-called religious refusals to comply with laws protecting the public.
Our attorneys have brought some of the major and historic challenges to abortion restrictions in Massachusetts, including Moe v. Secretary of Administration and Finance, which ensures a person’s right to reproductive freedom is a fundamental right under our state constitution.
In recent years, the ACLU of Massachusetts sued the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for permitting the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to use taxpayer money to impose religiously based restrictions on abortion and contraceptive access for people in the federal program for trafficking victims. In 2016, we rallied for reproductive rights at the U.S. Supreme Court during a hearing on a landmark case that protected access to abortion.
We supported a federal lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s discriminatory regulations authorizing schools and employers to opt out of providing contraception coverage to their employees and students based on religious or moral beliefs. Our view: we care about religious freedom, but religious freedom does not mean imposing religious views on others, especially where a constituional right like access to contraception is at stake.
In 2017, ACLU-backed legislation was signed into law, expanding access to affordable birth control in Massachusetts. Then in 2018, we helped pass bills to safeguard patient confidentiality for sensitive health care information and finally repeal archaic and unconstitutional anti-abortion laws.
Reproductive freedom is not merely about contraception or abortion; it is equally about the right to have children without interference or penalty. The ACLU of Massachusetts works to pass bills that decrease harm caused to low-income families, like the Massachusetts “cap on kids” which for too long penalized poor children and their families simply because a child was conceived while the family was receiving government assistance. In 2017, the ACLU-backed Pregnant Workers Fairness Act was signed into law, ensuring protections for pregnant people in the workplace.
In 2020, the state legislature passed the ROE Act, overriding Governor Charlie Baker's veto. We worked as a founding member of the the ROE Act Coalition to pass the new law, which represented a major step forward for abortion access at a time when this fundamental right was under threat around the country. The new law made Massachusetts the first state in the country to legislatively ease burdensome restrictions on young people’s access to care. It also enabled families to obtain care later in pregnancy in cases of lethal fetal diagnosis—without having to travel across the country.
However, barriers to reproductive freedom still abound, and the ACLU of Massachusetts will never stop working to remove those barriers. Right now, we support new legislation that would:
- Ensure health coverage for full-spectrum pregnancy care
- Increase access to emergency contraception
- Provide affordable early childhood education and child care
- Stop automatic abuse and neglect reports for prenatal substance exposure
- Mandate comprehensive, accurate, and inclusive sex education