Next steps beyond Roe v Wade

Top priority is expanding access to abortion in Massachusetts

WITH THE LEAKED Dobbs v. Jackson draft opinion, the US Supreme Court confirmed what we saw coming: the high court is preparing to overturn federal constitutional abortion protections and push abortion out of reach for millions of people. If the court does indeed issue a final ruling similar to the leaked draft, more than half of states across the country are likely to restrict or ban abortion. Anti-abortion politicians won’t stop there: they already are plotting to pass a nationwide abortion ban through Congress.

Let’s be clear: If the federal constitutional protections of Roe v. Wade fall, abortion will remain legal in Massachusetts absent a federal statute criminalizing it. But while our work to pass the ROE Act in 2020 codified the right to abortion into state law and removed anti-choice laws from our books, barriers to accessing care still exist. These obstacles—including under-resourced providers, exorbitant costs, and complicated insurance coverage—are even more marked for people in low-income communities, communities of color, LGBTQ communities, and immigrant communities. And have no doubt, we will feel a cascading impact in Massachusetts from other states’ abortion bans. Our providers are already seeing patients from Texas and other states come to the Commonwealth for care. With some of the best health care infrastructure in the country, our state will continue to be a beacon for reproductive freedom and a safe place to access care.

Here in Massachusetts, we must think beyond Roe and act quickly.

Our leaders and policymakers have an opportunity and an obligation to meet this moment with bold legislative action, budget investments, and regulatory solutions to remove barriers to care and ensure meaningful access to abortion. Today, our organizations put forward over a dozen policy recommendations to state leaders to help deliver reproductive equity in our Commonwealth.

First, Massachusetts must take action to expand access to abortion and other reproductive health care. Abortion rights mean very little if people are unable to access or afford the care itself. That means mandating insurance coverage for abortion services, ending exorbinant out-of-pocket cost-sharing for all reproductive health care, from prenatal care, childbirth, and post-partum care to miscarriage management and abortion care, and supporting—with state dollars—the abortion funds that are helping Bay Staters afford abortion care.

Second, as anti-abortion state legislatures in other states introduce legislation to force pregnancy within their borders and chill access beyond their borders, Massachusetts must take action to protect Bay State providers, patients, and helpers. That means doing all we can to try to insulate Massachusetts providers and helpers from harmful consequences for providing care that is legal in our Commonwealth. Protecting our providers also means supporting clinics by increasing capacity to meet patient demand. That’s why we are advocating for investments in clinic infrastructure and security and an increase in MassHealth reimbursement rates so providers are properly reimbursed for critical care provided to low-income patients.

Massachusetts must also protect patients, ensuring that no one is harassed, intimidated, or harmed for seeking care. Internet searches, visits to clinics, and apps leave digital traces. Massachusetts should pass stronger privacy laws, including prohibiting the sale and trade of location data generated by cell phones and personal devices to help prevent their use to track or monitor patients. We must also ensure full compliance with the ROE Act so that women and pregnant people in Massachusetts are not forced to travel out of state for abortion later in pregnancy.

And finally, we must increase research and public education efforts to help meet existing and growing health care needs. In order to respond comprehensively and effectively to this crisis, we need to understand the size and scope of the problem we are facing. That means improving our ability to collect data on workforce demands and clinic needs. We also must ensure that pregnant people in Massachusetts have clear, comprehensive, and up-to-date information on where to access legitimate reproductive health care. So-called crisis pregnancy centers pose as legitimate health care facilites but are in actuality unlicensed centers that do not provide abortion care and have an anti-abortion agenda. We must increase our public education efforts on the danger of crisis pregnancy centers and where they exist in our communities.

Meet the Author

Rebecca Hart Holder

Executive director, Reproductive Equity Now
Meet the Author

Carol Rose

Guest Contributor

About Carol Rose

Executive Director, ACLU of Massachusetts

About Carol Rose

Executive Director, ACLU of Massachusetts

Meet the Author

Jennifer Childs-Roshak

Executive director, Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts
The national reproductive health care landscape—with abortion as the first domino to fall—is about to be drastically altered. But as we face this unprecedented moment in history, there is one thing we know to be true: Massachusetts can rise to the occasion and remain a leader for reproductive freedom. We can pave the way forward for abortion access and serve as an example of what is possible when leaders are committed to smart, forward-thinking reproductive equity policy. This agenda is an important starting point.

Rebecca Hart Holder of Reproductive Equity Now, Carol Rose of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, and Dr. Jennifer Childs-Roshak of the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts are the leaders of the Beyond Roe Coalition.