In response to the US Supreme Court’s (SCOTUS) recent decision to overturn Roe v Wade, Rep. Jay Livingstone joined his House colleagues last Wednesday to pass a bill to uphold reproductive justice and gender-affirming care.
The bill, H.4930 “An Act expanding protections for reproductive rights”, passed 136-17 and aims to safeguard people seeking abortion, shield healthcare providers who treat people coming to Massachusetts for care, and prohibit co-pays or cost sharing for abortion and gender-affirming services.
“Massachusetts is going to stand out as a beacon to the rest of the country. If people need reproductive care, if people need gender affirming care, they can turn to Massachusetts and people can get that care regardless of financial means,” said Rep. Livingstone, who is Vice Chair of the Joint Committee of Healthcare Financing. “I was proud to speak in support of H.4930 and express my unwavering commitment to expanding reproductive and gender-affirming healthcare services and increased protections for residents and those who travel to the Commonwealth for such care. Thank you to my colleagues who voted overwhelmingly in favor of this legislation and for prioritizing this legislation less than one week after the SCOTUS decision. This was a bipartisan victory for reproductive justice and LGBTQIA rights. Thank you Kate Dineen for sharing your story and bringing to our attention that there was a loophole to close. You made a huge positive difference for the bill addressing this issue.”
House Speaker Ronald J. Mariano (D-Quincy) said although abortion remains legal in Massachusetts due to the Legislature’s efforts in 2020 to codify and expand access, the Massachusetts House took additional efforts to further protect these rights and establish additional safeguards following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. “The Supreme Court’s decision to completely overturn Roe v. Wade represents a fundamental attack on women’s rights. Now, more than ever, it is the responsibility of leaders in Massachusetts to ensure that the Commonwealth can serve as a sanctuary for women seeking reproductive health care, and for providers whose licenses could be at risk because of this recent Supreme Court decision,” said Speaker Mariano. “I want to thank Chairs Rep. Aaron Michlewitz and Rep. Michael Day, as well as all my colleagues in the House, for their commitment to protecting a woman’s right to choose, and for their hard work that facilitated the passage of this legislation.”
Day, who chairs the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, said the bill passed in the House makes it clear Massachusetts is going to continue to champion reproductive rights for women.
“Five members of the Supreme Court recently said states can decide whether millions of American women should be treated as second class citizens,” said Day. “Today, we in the Massachusetts House answered that question by reaffirming that our constitution and our laws make clear that women control their own bodies and that we will always step up to protect the fundamental rights of our residents here in the Commonwealth.”
“An Act expanding protections for reproductive rights” allows providers to apply to the Secretary of State to shield the health care professional’s address from public disclosure and designates reproductive health care and gender-affirming services as legally protected health care activity.
The bill reaffirms that access to reproductive health care and gender-affirming services are a right secured by the constitution or laws of the Commonwealth.
The bill also Requires insurance coverage for abortion and abortion-related care without being subject to deductibles, coinsurance, copayments, or other cost-sharing requirements and requires the Department of Public Health (DPH) to issue a statewide standing order to authorize licensed pharmacists to dispense emergency contraception.
The bill also provides additional protection for out-of-state patients coming to Massachusetts in search of reproductive health care.
The bill prohibits 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.
It also prohibits Massachusetts law enforcement from providing information related to an investigation or inquiry into legally protected health care services to federal or another state’s law enforcement agencies, quasi-law enforcement agencies, or private citizens.
Other highlights of the bill includes:
• 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.
• Limiting the Governor’s authority to surrender persons to acts that would be punishable under Massachusetts law and prohibiting them from surrendering a person charged in another state as a result of engaging in legally protected health care activity.
• Updating language from the 2020 ROE Act to ensure that impacted patients are able to receive in-state care.