Respect Equality

Massachusetts governor signs bill safeguarding reproductive, gender-affirming health care into law

Access to abortion and gender-affirming health care are now rights protected by the state’s constitution.
Massachusetts Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, right, faces reporters as Mass. Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, left, looks on during a news conference at the Statehouse, Jan. 25, 2017, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

Story at a glance

  • Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) on Friday approved legislation to protect access to abortion and gender-affirming health care.

  • The law also shields providers and patients from actions taken by other states where those services are illegal or heavily restricted.

  • State lawmakers introduced the measure just days after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. It follows an executive order issued by Baker that also safeguards abortion access in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) on Friday signed into law a measure protecting access to abortion and gender-affirming health care, safeguarding the right to two services that have been widely attacked this year by state officials across the country who say they are morally opposed to them.

The measure was introduced by Massachusetts House lawmakers just days after the Supreme Court voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that established the constitutional right to an abortion. Baker in the hours following the court’s decision issued an executive order shielding access to reproductive health care.

Like Baker’s executive order, the new Massachusetts law protects abortion providers and those seeking an abortion from actions taken by other states where the procedure is illegal. Since the fall of federal abortion protections, more than a dozen states have enacted full or partial bans on the procedure, although a handful of those bans are currently being blocked by courts.

America is changing faster than ever! Add Changing America to your Facebook or Twitter feed to stay on top of the news.

Under some state bans, legal action may be taken against doctors or others who help an individual obtain an abortion. Pending legislation in Missouri makes clear the state’s ban will be enforced through civil lawsuits if an abortion is administered to a Missouri resident in another state.

Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, last month suggested that women who travel to neighboring states to receive an abortion will be protected by the constitutional right to interstate travel.

Nevertheless, Baker and Massachusetts lawmakers have said the state will not comply with any extradition requests from other states pursuing criminal charges against individuals who received, assisted with or performed health care services that are legal in Massachusetts.

“Pregnant people, trans people, and all people must be allowed to make their own health care decisions in consultation with their physician without fear,” Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D) said Friday.

Under the new law, access to both reproductive and gender-affirming health care services are considered rights protected by the state’s constitution.

“Interference with this right, whether or not under the color of law, is against the public policy of the commonwealth,” the measure states.

The law also requires Massachusetts’ Medicaid program to cover abortion and allows over-the-counter emergency contraception to be sold in vending machines. Access to medication abortion on public college and university campuses will also be expanded.