Columnist Carrie N. Baker: A Review of Abortion Access in Massachusetts

The wave of anti-abortion laws in the United States and the overturning of Roe v. Wade have made abortion much more difficult to obtain ...



The wave of anti-abortion laws in the United States and the overturning of Roe v. Wade have made abortion much more difficult to obtain in much of the country. But here in Massachusetts, we now have better access to abortion-related health care than just a few years ago — a change ironically fueled by anti-abortion developments in the rest of the country.

In 2018, shortly after Donald Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, Massachusetts lawmakers concerned about Roe’s possible overthrow passed a law contradicting archaic statutes targeting young women – known as the Wicked Women Act – repealing abortion and contraception bans still in effect but unenforceable at the time due to Roe and other court rulings.

Then in December 2020, shortly after the Senate confirmed Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, the Massachusetts legislature overruled Governor Charlie Baker’s veto to pass the RE Actcreating an affirmative right to abortion-related health care, expanding access to abortion after 24 weeks for fatal fetal abnormalities, and making Massachusetts the first state to remove the parental consent requirement by allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to provide independent consent to abortion-related health care.

Then last month, our legislature passed a sweeping new law, A law expanding protections for reproductive care and affirming genderwith strong protections for healthcare workers providing these services to patients living out of state – both those traveling to Massachusetts for care and those receiving care in their home state of the share of providers in Massachusetts via telemedecine.

The law protects Massachusetts providers from extradition and out-of-state investigation for providing legally authorized health care in Massachusetts. It protects providers’ professional licenses and maintains affordable malpractice insurance if they face out-of-state civil lawsuits for providing legal abortion care in Massachusetts. And it creates a new civil remedy to counter-sue if they are sued in a criminal or civil lawsuit by someone outside of Massachusetts, allowing them to recover an amount equal to the assessed damages in any lawsuit in justice outside the state.

The law defines legally protected health care activities to include health care provided by telemedicine to patients in other states. This means that people living in states with ban on abortion Where telehealth abortion restrictions can now access medical abortion care via telehealth from providers in Massachusetts. We are the first state to do so. The law will also allow Massachusetts providers to offer telemedicine abortion services to minors in states where parental notification requirements because Massachusetts does not require parental consent or notification for minors aged 16 and 17.

Other provisions include requirements that insurance cover abortion without copayments or deductibles and that public colleges and universities in Massachusetts offer medical abortions at campus health centers. The new law expands access to abortion after 24 weeks to include cases of “serious fetal diagnosis indicating that the fetus is incompatible with sustained life outside the womb without extraordinary medical interventions,” as determined by ” physician’s best medical judgment”.

The law also expands access to contraception by allowing pharmacists to provide emergency contraception, by immediately making possible free insurance coverage for all forms of emergency contraception, and by authorizing the sale of contraceptives. over-the-counter emergency supplies from vending machines. Boston University now has a vending machine that allows students to purchase emergency contraception for $7.25, well below the retail price of $40-50.

The rapid passage of this recent law contrasts dramatically with the years we fought for the ROE Act, which Baker vetoed. This much more expansive bill passed just over four weeks after the Supreme Court overturned Roe, and the governor quickly signed the bill into law. The same week, he also signed the fiscal year 2023 budget which includes $2 million for abortion funds in the state.

All of these laws have dramatically expanded access to abortion-related health care in our state. But another factor that increased access was the US Food and Drug Administration’s decision to relax restrictions on the abortion pill mifepristone last December. As a result, Massachusetts now has at least nine telehealth abortion providersmany of which charge far less than in-clinic care. Access to aid, for example, offers this service on a sliding scale up to $150. If you cannot afford to pay, you can receive the service for free. The pills arrive in the mail within days, saving the hassle of crossing the picket lines of condescending, hellish anti-abortion protesters at clinics. As a result, Massachusetts residents can easily, privately, and safely obtain and use abortion pills at home during the first trimester of pregnancy.

The anti-abortion tidal wave across the country has propelled sweeping action to increase access to abortion-related health care in Massachusetts. I am proud to live in a state that respects the lives, choices and dignity of pregnant women, girls, trans and non-binary people.

Carrie N. Baker is a professor in the Women’s and Gender Studies program at Smith College and a regular contributor to Ms. Magazine.



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Newsrust - US Top News: Columnist Carrie N. Baker: A Review of Abortion Access in Massachusetts
Columnist Carrie N. Baker: A Review of Abortion Access in Massachusetts
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