Respect Equality

Massachusetts House passes bill protecting access to abortion, gender-affirming care

The measure would codify the right to an abortion and gender-affirming health care and shield providers and patients from out-of-state legal ramifications.
Abortion-rights supporters rally, Saturday, June 25, 2022, in Quincy, Mass., a day after the Supreme Court ended constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place nearly 50 years in a decision by its conservative majority to overturn Roe v. Wade. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Story at a glance

  • House lawmakers in Massachusetts on Wednesday advanced a measure that would establish the right to an abortion and access to gender-affirming care.

  • The bill would also protect doctors and patients from legal action if they travel to Massachusetts from another state where abortions or gender-affirming health care are illegal.

  • The measure now heads to the Senate for consideration.

Massachusetts House lawmakers Wednesday evening passed a bill that would codify the right to an abortion and gender-affirming health care. The measure, which now heads to the state Senate for consideration, would also protect patients seeking either procedures from legal action if they travel to Massachusetts from a state where abortions or gender-affirming care are restricted or illegal.

“Access to reproductive health care services and gender-affirming health care services is recognized and declared to be a right secured by the constitution or laws of the commonwealth,” the bill reads.

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which established the constitutional right to an abortion, more than a dozen states have sought to ban abortions in their state, leaving millions without access to reproductive health care.

At the same time, legislation aiming to heavily restrict access to gender-affirming care for transgender people – particularly transgender youth – has been introduced in state legislatures across the country. Some of those measures have already become law.

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Minutes after the Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) signed an executive order protecting reproductive rights. The state under the executive order will also not cooperate with extradition requests from other states that are pursuing criminal charges against people who received health care services that are legal in Massachusetts.

The Massachusetts bill would shield both health care providers and patients from legal ramifications if patients travel from a state where abortion or gender-affirming care is illegal to Massachusetts.

Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have laws in place protecting the right to abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute, and four states and D.C. have codified the right to abortion without state interference.

Twelve states explicitly allow abortion either prior to viability or when it is necessary to protect the life or health of the pregnant person.

By comparison, access to gender-affirming medical care, which can include puberty blockers, hormone therapy or gender-affirming surgery, is relatively unprotected in the U.S. 

In May, 16 states introduced transgender refuge bills, designed to protect transgender children and their families from penalties when seeking gender-affirming care. Three states – Arizona, Arkansas and Alabama – currently have laws in place that ban gender-affirming medical care for transgender youth.