Yesterday I was so proud to vote YES as the Senate passed comprehensive legislation to add further protections for reproductive rights in Massachusetts by a 40 to 0 vote. The bill, S.2996, also – and importantly – provides protections for those seeking and providing gender-affirming care.
You can watch my floor speech on the bill here.
A summary of the bill’s provisions, which are complex, is below. You can also read the bill here. During yesterday’s debate, we adopted a number of amendments, including provisions to require abortion providers to comply with anti-discrimination laws, an amendment to require higher education campuses to assist students with medication abortions, and one to direct the Department of Public Health to identify “abortion and birth care deserts” where people need to travel long distances to get care. Those amendments will be integrated into the bill which will get a new bill number as a result.
In addition, I have been named as co-chair of a special Senate Working Group to prepare legislatively for any future challenges to reproductive rights. The goal of the task force is to be ready to respond to any new threats that may arise. With this Task Force, the Senate redoubles our commitment to the full spectrum of reproductive health equity issues. With Congress deadlocked and a hostile Supreme Court, states must step up. Massachusetts can lead the way to defend and expand reproductive rights for our constituents and for those coming to the Commonwealth seeking care. The Task Force will be meeting in the coming weeks so that we’re prepared for any outcome in this area.
The Senate bill will now be reconciled with a similar House bill that passed in late June. I’m confident that we will be able to send to the Governor strong legislation that defends and expands rights for us and for those coming to the Commonwealth seeking care.
2996: Summary of major provisions
Protections for Health Care Professionals
The 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.
The bill 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 care.
Sections 1, 2, 3 – expanding the Address Confidentiality Program
- Protects individuals engaged in the provision or promotion of gender-affirming and reproductive health care services by allowing them to apply for the state’s Address Confidentiality Program.
- These protected reproductive health care services include care and services related to pregnancy, contraception, assisted reproduction, miscarriage management, and pregnancy termination.
- Requires that the Secretary of State consult with the secretary of health and human services, Jane Doe Inc., Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, Inc., Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, Inc. and Reproductive Equity Now, Inc. in promulgating policies related to the inclusion of reproductive care in the state’s Address Confidentiality Program.
Sections 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 — protection from Professional Medical Boards
- Insulates health care professionals (physicians, PAs, nurses, pharmacists, etc.) from adverse consequences from their professional boards for providing or assisting with reproductive or gender-affirming health care services outside Massachusetts, so long as the services as provided would have been lawful and consistent with good medical practice if they occurred entirely in Massachusetts.
Sections 19 — protection from medical malpractice insurers
- Prevents medical malpractice insurers from discriminating against or adjusting a health care provider’s risk classification or premium charges as a result of providing reproductive or gender-affirming health care services.
Constitutional & Legal Protections for Reproductive & Gender-Affirming Care
The 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 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 prevents law enforcement agencies from providing information or assisting federal or other state’s law enforcement agencies with investigations into reproductive and gender-affirming care.
The bill prevents law enforcement agencies from providing information or assisting federal or other state law enforcement agencies with any investigation into “legally protected health care activity,” which now includes reproductive and gender-affirming care.
Section 4 — legal protections for reproductive & gender-affirming care
- Codifies that access to reproductive and gender-affirming health care services is a right secured by the constitution and laws of the Commonwealth.
- Creates a new cause of action for interference with “legally protected health care activity” in Massachusetts through abusive litigation filed or prosecuted in a state other than Massachusetts.
Sections 28 and 29 — enforcing court decisions regarding reproductive care from other states
- Requires Massachusetts courts to hear cases based on judgments issued in another state concerning “legally protected health care activity”, rather than simply enforcing a copy of an out-of-state judgment to have it recognized within Massachusetts, and requires Massachusetts courts to not accept any judgment by an out-of-state court if it does not have jurisdiction in the case.
Section 16 – protection from law enforcement
- Prevents state law enforcement agencies from providing information or assisting federal or other state law enforcement agencies or private citizens or quasi-law enforcement agents with any investigation or inquiry into services constituting “legally protected health care activity.”
Section 30 — legal protections from testimony/production related to abortion care
- Prevents Massachusetts courts from ordering a person within Massachusetts to give testimony or produce documents or other things for use in connection with litigation concerning “legally protected health care activity.”
Section 31 — exemption for legally-protected care from SLAPP statute
- Excludes cases brought concerning “legally protected health care activity” from Massachusetts’ anti-SLAPP statute, which provide a way to quickly terminate frivolous claims that threaten First Amendment rights. Anti-SLAPP statutes allow an individual to dismiss a case if they believe that they have been targeted due to the exercise of their right to petition.
Section 32 — limitations on MA prosecution/extradition related to case fled in another state
- Prevent judges from issuing a summons where prosecution is pending concerning “legally protected health care activity” for a criminal violation of a law of another state, unless the acts forming the basis of the prosecution or investigation would also constitute an offense if occurring entirely in Massachusetts.
- Prevents the Governor from extraditing a person to another state who was charged in another state as a result of engaging in “legally protected health care activity” except where required by federal law or unless demanding state alleges in writing that the accused person was physically present in the demanding state at the time of the commission of the alleged offense and thereafter fled from that state.
Access and Coverage for Abortion-Related Services
The bill requires that employees insured by the state (GIC, MassHealth) are covered for abortion-related care with no cost-sharing, like copays or deductibles. MassHealth enrollees will also receive coverage for prenatal care, childbirth, and postpartum care with no cost-sharing.
The bill requires that all state-regulated health insurers cover abortion-related care with no cost-sharing.
Sections 5 & 6 — GIC (state employee health insurance) coverage of abortion-related care
- Requires that the GIC provide coverage for abortion-related care, without imposing a cost-sharing amount
Sections 14 & 15 — MassHealth coverage of abortion-related care
- Requires that the MassHealth provide coverage for abortion-related care, and prenatal care, childbirth, and postpartum care without cost-sharing.
Sections 17, 18, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27 – health insurance required coverage for abortion-related care
- Requires all state-regulated group and individual insurance plans to provide coverage for abortion-related care, without imposing a cost-sharing amount [Note: the state cannot regulate large companies’ employer-provided health insurance].
The bill expands access to contraception by allowing any licensed pharmacist to dispense safe and affordable contraceptive medication.
Section 7 — dispensing of emergency contraception
- Requires that DPH authorize any licensed pharmacist to dispense emergency contraception (includes any drug approved by the federal FDA as a contraceptive method for use after sexual intercourse, whether provided over-the-counter or by prescription)
- Requires that pharmacists complete a training program approved by the commissioner on emergency contraception before dispensing contraception.