Beyond Roe Coalition thanks Massachusetts Senate, urgently calls for most comprehensive final bill
The Massachusetts Senate today voted to pass legislation to protect and expand abortion access in the Commonwealth (S.2996). The new bill follows Senate and House investments to protect abortion providers and patients, and a House of Representatives proposal (H.4954) including several key components of the Massachusetts Beyond Roe Agenda.
The amended bill passed by the Senate, which now must be reconciled with the House version, includes:
- Measures to do everything within the state’s power to protect providers of reproductive health care and gender-affirming care from hostile investigations, litigation, and harm to their professional standing when they provide care that is lawful in the Commonwealth;
- Provisions to guarantee insurance coverage for abortion and ensure the affordability of abortion and other reproductive health care for individual patients;
- An emergency contraception standing order to simplify access to both prescription and over-the-counter emergency contraception;
- Privacy protections that enable providers to participate in an existing address confidentiality program run by the Secretary of the Commonwealth;
- A provision to require the Department of Public Health to develop a public list of abortion provider facilities, issue a report identifying areas in Massachusetts which lack access to abortion or birth care within 50 miles, and provide recommendations to facilitate improved access in these areas;
- A provision to authorize pharmacists to prescribe and dispense certain types of hormonal birth control;
- A requirement for Massachusetts public colleges and universities to provide medication abortion at campus health centers; and
- An updated framework for decision-making about abortion later in pregnancy.
- Language passed in the House bill goes further to clarify the statutory framework for abortion care after 24 weeks, by adding reference to severe fetal anomalies. Massachusetts hospitals and providers have said the House language is urgently necessary to fully realize the intent of the ROE Act passed in 2020 and ensure no one must leave Massachusetts for abortion care.
“This moment of national crisis calls for leadership and urgent action; we are grateful that Massachusetts senators are taking meaningful action to protect abortion access and gender-affirming care in the Commonwealth,” said Carol Rose, Executive Director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “We all deserve the power to control our bodies and decide if and when to have a child–regardless of where we live. We urge the legislature to ensure the most comprehensive set of protections is enacted into law as swiftly as possible.”
“With today’s action by the State Senate to protect Massachusetts providers who offer abortion and gender affirming care, break down cost barriers to abortion and reproductive health care, and simplify access to emergency contraception, our state can show what is possible when leaders are unequivocal in support of reproductive freedom,” said Rebecca Hart Holder, Executive Director of Reproductive Equity Now. “Now, we must work with our legislative partners to find the best pathway forward to clarify the ROE Act and ensure no one is sent out of state for abortion care when faced with a severe fetal anomaly. Massachusetts can be a beacon for reproductive freedom in a post-Roe world, and we are grateful to have leadership in both the Senate and House who are committed to taking meaningful action to meet this moment of crisis.”
“Abortion is health care and our state has consistently ensured access to health care for all who need it,” said Dr. Jennifer Childs-Roshak, President & CEO of Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts. “While we are incredibly grateful to the Legislature for taking urgent and commendable action in the face of this unprecedented moment, until these protections are enshrined into law, providers and patients in Massachusetts will live in fear of repercussions from regressive laws passed by other states. As such, we urge the Legislature to do all in their collective power to expeditiously put in place the most comprehensive protections possible – including protections for patients experiencing severe fetal anomalies. Anything less would be a disservice to our state’s unparalleled legacy.”
The recent ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturns landmark privacy and abortion protections enshrined in Roe v. Wade. The effects are immediate and far-reaching: Because of the Supreme Court’s decision, nearly a dozen states are taking steps to enforce abortion bans across the country, and that number is expected to grow to ultimately include half the states.
In Massachusetts, the ROE Act codifies the right to abortion into state law, recognizing abortion as a fundamental right and ensuring it will remain legal. But barriers to care—including exorbitant costs, complicated insurance coverage, and provider access deserts—still exist in the Commonwealth, especially for low-income communities, communities of color, and immigrant communities.
Following a leaked draft opinion from the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, the Beyond Roe Coalition—led by the ACLU of Massachusetts, Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts, and Reproductive Equity Now—launched an advocacy agenda to protect and expand abortion access in Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Beyond Roe Agenda includes 21 legislative solutions, budget investments, and regulatory actions that state leaders can take to ensure Massachusetts remains a beacon for reproductive freedom.