Gag rule impacts Massachusetts
New move to withhold funding from clinics providing abortion services could affect all states
In Massachusetts, we view abortion rights as settled law, though acknowledging that there are still pockets of deep opposition.
The debate over abortion rights rarely rises to an issue in federal or local races here because state law is so firm on a woman’s right to choose that a vocal opponent rarely has a chance at victory. Watching restrictions play out in other states such as Iowa or Mississippi has little impact on what happens here.
But a move set to be announced Friday by the Trump administration could have a deep impact here on the ability of women to access information and care in obtaining an abortion as well as receive health care beyond abortion services. President Trump plans to announce a directive that would withhold federal funding from clinics that provide abortion services, referrals, or even information. It is a direct shot at Planned Parenthood and a gift to conservatives who have been pushing for such action to restrict abortions even in states where there is no fervent opposition.
The move has the earmarks of the domestic “gag order” imposed by then-President Reagan that required a physical separation at clinics that offered abortions and referrals between those services and other family planning services. That policy was tossed out after President Clinton assumed office.
The move comes as protests at abortion clinics are on the rise once again, with abortion opponents emboldened by an administration bent on implementing conservative ideals to appease the base. Massachusetts is not immune from those protests as a look on the Planned Parenthood site for the five clinics in the Bay State has a warning to patients that they may face protests outside the buildings. The move will also give some boost to right-wing candidates here such as Scott Lively and ensure that the order and the issue will become a part of this year’s statewide campaigns.
Even though abortion is not a hot-button issue here, Massachusetts politicians continue to stand at the front of the fight. Sen. Elizabeth Warren was the first of more than 200 lawmakers who signed a letter to Trump opposing the funding ban as word began to leak out.The order doesn’t necessarily mean a clinic would lose funding, only if they don’t “disentangle” themselves from abortion services. Officials at Planned Parenthood say that is a misleading posture because information on abortion, including a woman’s health, is important to a full spectrum of sexual health services.
More than 45 years after the Supreme Court said women had a constitutional right to make their own choice in pregnancies, the debate is far from settled.