Massachusetts Legislature Passes Comprehensive Legislation Protecting Access to Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Care

Today, the Massachusetts Legislature passed comprehensive legislation designed to further protect and expand reproductive health care and gender-affirming services in the Commonwealth. Although abortion remains legal in Massachusetts due to the Legislature’s efforts to codify and expand access to reproductive rights in 2020, the Legislature today took additional action to further protect these rights and establish additional safeguards following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. The legislation, An Act expanding protections for reproductive and gender-affirming care, provides legal protections to abortion providers, out-of-state patients, and insurers; expands access to contraceptives; and helps ensure that women who face grave circumstances after 24 weeks of pregnancy are not forced to leave Massachusetts to access reproductive health care services.

“Now that the Supreme Court’s conservative super-majority has decided to unravel the nearly 50 years of judicial precedent that established the right to an abortion, it is more important now than ever for leaders in Massachusetts to ensure that the Commonwealth can serve as a sanctuary for women seeking reproductive health care services, and for providers whose licenses could be at risk because of laws passed in other states,” said House Speaker Ronald J. Mariano (D-Quincy). “As states across the country move to restrict access to abortion, I am incredibly proud of the fact that this legislation ensures that no woman will ever be forced to leave our state to seek reproductive health care services because of grave circumstances during the later stages of their pregnancy. I want to thank Chairman Michlewitz and each member of the conference committee, my colleagues in the House, as well as Senate President Spilka and our partners in the Senate for their commitment to protecting a woman’s right to choose, and for their hard work that facilitated the passage of this legislation.”

“There is nothing more important than allowing a pregnant person to make their own health care decisions, in consultation with their physician,” stated Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “I am proud of the decisive action the Senate took, first in the Fiscal Year 2023 budget and then earlier this month to protect our residents, our providers and the many pregnant or transgender people who may seek the care they deserve in our Commonwealth. I am grateful to the many Senators who have taken a stand, including Senate Ways and Means Chair Michael Rodrigues and Senator Cindy Friedman, my colleague Speaker Mariano and our partners in the House, and the many, many people who shared their stories about the importance of this legislation.”

“The bill the Legislature passed today will protect and expand our constituents’ options to reproductive healthcare, at the same time that other states across the nation are attempting to do the exact opposite,” said Representative Aaron Michlewitz (D-Boston), Chair of the House Committee on Ways & Means. “Safe reproductive healthcare means so much more than abortion. It means equal access to that healthcare. It means safe, effective contraception. It means ensuring a path to pregnancy can be safe and healthy. But above all it means a woman- here in Massachusetts- has the freedom of choice over her body and her health. By enacting this legislation, we are making clear that the Commonwealth continues to be a leader on safeguarding that freedom.”

“In the face of an increasing amount of anti-abortion and anti-gender-affirming care laws enacted across the country, Massachusetts continues to serve as a national leader in protecting these essential rights with the passage of this legislation,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing and the lead sponsor of the bill. “We must do everything we can to protect the rights of our providers, patients, and visitors to the Commonwealth. This bill takes important steps to ensure that pregnant people who face dire circumstances after 24 weeks of pregnancy are not forced to leave Massachusetts in order to access reproductive health care services, and places the decision-making power to end a late term pregnancy in the hands of the patient and their treating physician, not a hospital’s independent review panel. I thank my colleagues on the conference committee and in the House and the Senate for moving this bill forward so quickly.”

An Act expanding protections for reproductive and gender-affirming care:

  • Designates reproductive health care and gender-affirming services as legally protected health care
  • Reaffirms that access to reproductive health care and gender-affirming services are a right secured by the constitution and laws of the Commonwealth
  • Requires insurance coverage for abortion and abortion-related care without being subject to deductibles, coinsurance, copayments, or other cost-sharing requirements. Forbids MassHealth from charging deductibles, coinsurance, copayments, or other cost-sharing requirements for pre-natal, childbirth, and post-partum care
  • Updates language from the 2020 ROE Act to help ensure that patients over 24 weeks of pregnancy are able to receive an abortion in Massachusetts because of a grave fetal diagnosis that indicates the fetus is incompatible with sustained life outside of the uterus without extraordinary medical interventions and requires that those decisions are made between the patient and their treating physician
  • Requires the Department of Public Health (DPH) to issue a statewide standing order to authorize licensed pharmacists to dispense emergency contraception
  • Clarifies that vending machines may dispense over-the-counter drugs, such as Plan B
  • Ensures access to medication abortion on all public college and university campuses
  • Allows individuals engaged in the provision, facilitation, or promotion of reproductive and gender-affirming health care to enroll in the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Address Confidentiality Program (ACP)
  • Protects providers and out-of-state patients in Massachusetts by:
    • Prohibiting the Boards of Registration of various health professions from disciplining or taking adverse action on an application for registration of any person who assists with reproductive health care or gender-affirming services
    • Prohibiting Massachusetts law enforcement from assisting any investigation by federal authorities, another state, or private citizens related to legally protected reproductive and gender-affirming health care provided in the Commonwealth
    • Prohibiting medical malpractice insurers from discriminating against a provider that offers reproductive or gender-affirming health care services
    • Protecting Massachusetts residents from efforts to enforce court rulings from other states based on health care activity that is legally protected in Massachusetts
    • Prohibiting any Massachusetts court from ordering a person in Massachusetts to give testimony or produce documents for use in connection with any proceeding in an out-of-state tribunal concerning legally protected health care activity
    • Protecting Massachusetts residents and providers from lawsuits seeking to penalize health care activities legally protected in Massachusetts
    • Prohibiting a justice from issuing a summons for a person in Massachusetts to testify or appear in a court in another state in prosecutions or grand jury investigations related to legally protected health care activity
    • Preventing the Governor from extraditing someone to another state to face charges for receiving or providing abortion-related or gender-affirming care, except when required by federal law or unless the acts forming the basis of the investigation would also constitute an offense if occurring entirely in Massachusetts

“In the face of five individuals on our Supreme Court deciding to allow states to treat women as second-class citizens by denying them the federal right to control their own bodies, I am proud that we in Massachusetts instead have reaffirmed that women do indeed have equal rights and privacy interests that we will always defend,” said Representative Michael S. Day (D-Stoneham), House Chair of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary. “This bill tells other states who would roll back women’s rights that their laws will have no effect on our residents, that we will protect our health professionals who offer legal health care services, and that the decision to have a child will not be dictated by a state law or access to healthcare.”

“This is a tremendous victory for women seeking reproductive health care and medical professionals providing these necessary services in Massachusetts,” said Senate Majority Leader Cynthia Creem (D-Newton). At a time when many states are criminalizing abortion and curtailing the rights of transgender individuals, I’m proud that the Legislature took decisive action to protect access to reproductive and gender-affirming care here in the Commonwealth.”

“In the wake of the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, it is imperative that we protect the laws enacted by our state against unwarranted attacks from those outside the Commonwealth,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R- Gloucester).

Having been passed by the House and Senate, An Act expanding protections for reproductive and gender-affirming care now goes to Governor Baker for his signature.