Today, the Senate and House passed H.5090, An Act expanding protections for reproductive and gender-affirming care. I was delighted to vote YES and proud that many of the Senate’s equity-driven initiatives are included in the final version of this critical legislation.
Here are some highlights of the bill:
- establishes that access to reproductive and gender-affirming health care services is a right protected by the Commonwealth’s constitution
- protects health care professionals in Massachusetts from liability for delivering these critical services
- requires that health insurers cover abortion-related care with no cost sharing for patients
- prohibits the Governor from extraditing anyone who is criminally charged in another state for providing reproductive health care services
- directs public colleges and universities to assist students seeking medication abortions
In addition to this bill, the legislature has responded to the overturn of Roe v. Wade by investing over $17 million in reproductive health care infrastructure and to support abortion providers.
I have also been appointed to co-chair a Senate working group tasked with identifying other legislative actions that will be necessary for the legislature to consider in the next legislative session.
The key components of the legislation sent to the Governor’s desk today include:
Constitutional & Legal Protections for Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Care
This bill establishes that access to reproductive and gender-affirming health care services is a right protected by the Commonwealth’s constitution, and ensures that all cases relating to reproductive care will be heard under Massachusetts law.
This bill also protects patients and health care providers by preventing Massachusetts courts from ordering a resident to give testimony or produce documents in connection with litigation concerning “legally protected health care activity,” and by preventing the Governor from extraditing anyone who is charged for engaging in these health care services in another state.
This bill also prohibits Massachusetts law enforcement agencies from providing information to or assisting federal or other state’s law enforcement agencies with investigations into reproductive and gender-affirming care. This is crucial to safeguard private information about Massachusetts residents seeking care and health care professionals providing critical services both within and outside the Commonwealth.
Protections for Health Care Professionals
This bill protects health care professionals from suffering consequences related to their licensure or malpractice insurance due to providing gender-affirming and reproductive care, including pregnancy, contraception, assisted reproduction, miscarriage management, and pregnancy termination. This legislation also allows health care professionals providing this vital care to apply for an anonymous and protected professional address so that they can continue providing legally-protected services.
Access and Coverage for Abortion-Related Services
This bill requires that public and private health insurers cover abortion-related care with no cost-sharing for the patient. This bill also expands access to affordable and safe options by allowing any licensed pharmacist to dispense emergency contraception, and by allowing for the use of vending machines or similar devices to dispense over-the-counter contraceptive medications, such as Plan B. The bill also clarifies that pregnant people do not have to leave Massachusetts for abortion care later in their pregnancy, and emphasizes that these decisions are solely between a physician and patient, and not a review panel.
In addition, this bill requires that the Department of Public Health work with Reproductive Equity Now to identify “abortion deserts,” or areas in which pregnant people do not have access to abortion or birth care within a 50-mile radius, and then make recommendations for facilitating access to reproductive care services in the identified areas.
The legislation also expands access to abortion-related care for students in the Commonwealth, requiring that higher education institutions implement plans to ensure that students have reliable information on how to access medication abortions.