(BOSTON – 07/13/2022) State Senator Jason Lewis joined his Senate colleagues in unanimously passing a bipartisan bill to protect healthcare providers, residents, and visitors to the Commonwealth who engage in legally-protected reproductive and gender-affirming healthcare, including access to abortion.
An Act expanding protections for reproductive and gender-affirming care includes provisions preventing the Commonwealth’s cooperation with ‘bounty-style’ anti-abortion and anti-gender-affirming care laws in other states; mandates health insurance coverage for abortion and abortion-related care with no cost-sharing for the patient; ensures access to emergency contraception; and provides confidentiality to providers of reproductive and gender-affirming care.
“In the wake of the shocking Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v Wade, it is imperative for the Commonwealth to ensure that abortion providers are fully protected and patients, whether from Massachusetts or other states, have access to the care they need,” said Senator Jason Lewis. “I was proud to join my Senate colleagues in passing this critical legislation to further protect and expand access to reproductive and gender-affirming healthcare in Massachusetts. I’m especially pleased that the bill includes an amendment I filed to expand access to medication abortion services on our public college and university campuses to help students overcome the significant barriers to care that many face today.”
Under the legislation, physicians, nurses, physician assistants, pharmacists, psychologists, genetic counselors and social workers are insulated from legal action in Massachusetts courts as a result of providing healthcare services which are legal in Massachusetts. This language specifically protects reproductive and gender-affirming healthcare, which has been the target of ‘bounty-style’ laws passed in states like Texas and Oklahoma that seek to limit this critical care beyond their states’ borders. This bill also allows anyone who faces abusive litigation in another state for providing legally protected reproductive and gender-affirming care services to sue in Massachusetts court to obtain a judgment, including actual damages, expenses, costs, and reasonable attorney’s fees.
The bill includes prohibitions on Massachusetts law enforcement assisting other states in investigations of legally protected reproductive and gender-affirming care in Massachusetts, and protections against extradition to another state. The bill also implements a statewide standing order to ensure emergency contraception can be dispensed at all pharmacies in Massachusetts.
During the debate, Senator Lewis spoke in support of an amendment he filed to expand access to medication abortion services on public college and university campuses. This will help address the significant barriers to accessing reproductive healthcare faced by many students today. The amendment was adopted.
With a version of An Act expanding protections for reproductive and gender-affirming care now having passed both branches of the state legislature, the differences between the bill’s two versions will be reconciled before sending a final version to the Governor.