For Immediate Release: 7-14-22
Contact: Peter Jasinski | firstname.lastname@example.org
Sen. Keenan advocated for including miscarriage services under abortion-related care
BOSTON — The Massachusetts State Senate voted unanimously Wednesday to pass a bill protecting providers, residents, and visitors to the Commonwealth who engage in legally-protected reproductive and gender-affirming healthcare from legal action by people from other states, and to ensure that existing access to these services are affordable. During debate, Senator John F. Keenan urged his colleagues to also include full insurance coverage without cost-sharing for services relative to miscarriages.
Filed by Senator Cindy F. Friedman, S.2996, An Act expanding protections for reproductive and gender-affirming care, includes provisions preventing the Commonwealth’s cooperation with anti-abortion and anti-gender-affirming care laws in other states that law enforcement or private citizens in those states may seek to enforce against Massachusetts’ medical providers. The bill passed by the Senate also mandates that health insurance coverage for prenatal care, childbirth, postpartum care, abortion or abortion-related care not include cost-sharing; ensures access to emergency contraception; and provides confidentiality to providers of reproductive and gender-affirming care.
Sen. Keenan filed an amendment to ensure that any medical services related to miscarriages are also covered at no cost to the consumer and worked successfully with colleagues to include these provisions in the final version of the bill.
“The Commonwealth has a strong public-policy interest in not burdening those who have to deal with the physical and psychological traumas of a miscarriage with economic costs as well,” said Sen. Keenan.
Under S.2996, physicians, nurses, physician assistants, pharmacists, psychologists, genetic counselors and social workers are insulated from legal action in Massachusetts courts as a result of providing health care services that are already legal in Massachusetts. This language specifically protects reproductive and gender-affirming health care, which have been the targets of laws passed in states like Texas and Oklahoma that seek to limit this critical care beyond their states’ borders.
“We must do everything to protect the rights of our providers, patients, and visitors to the Commonwealth,” said Sen. Friedman. “As we further realize the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson in our Commonwealth, we will continue to fight these attacks on reproductive and gender-affirming care with meaningful action.”
Additionally, the legislation prevents the Governor from extraditing someone to another state to face charges for an abortion or other protected services, except when required by federal law or unless the acts forming the basis of the investigation would also constitute an offense if occurring entirely in Massachusetts. State law enforcement agencies would also be prohibited from assisting any investigation by federal authorities, another state, or private citizens related to legally protected reproductive and gender-affirming health care provided in the Commonwealth. Courts would similarly be barred from ordering anyone in Massachusetts to testify or produce documents for lawsuits involving those practices, and judges could not issue any summons in a case concerning those health care services unless the offense in question would also violate Massachusetts law.
“Quite simply, this legislation protects what is already legal here in Massachusetts,” said Sen. Keenan.
An amendment was adopted during debate that requires public higher education institutions to work with the Department of Public Health (DPH) to create a medication abortion readiness plan that must provide medication abortion at a health center on campus or provide a referral to a nearby healthcare facility offering abortion health care. The amendment also creates a trust fund for public higher education institutions to support the implementation of their medication abortion readiness plans.
In response to stories about women not receiving access to abortion care in Massachusetts currently allowed under the existing state law, an amendment was adopted to clarify the circumstances that treating physicians must consider when determining whether to provide later-in-pregnancy abortion care. The amendment makes clear that such determinations are to be made by the treating physician and patient. To ensure hospitals comply with the law, the amendment also requires healthcare facilities providing these services to file their procedures and processes for providing services consistent with the law with DPH.
Additional amendments identify areas of the state with limited access to reproductive health services to increase care to those areas and allow pharmacists to prescribe and dispense hormonal contraceptive patches and self-administered oral hormonal contraceptives.
The bill allows individuals engaged in the provision, facilitation, or promotion of reproductive and gender-affirming health care to enroll in the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Address Confidentiality Program. This will increase the safety of those who may face threats or violence outside of the workplace in their personal lives or at their residences.
With a version of An Act expanding protections for reproductive and gender-affirming care having passed both branches of the Legislature, members of the Senate and House will now work together to draft a reconciled version of the bills passed by each chamber, which will then go to the Governor’s desk for final approval.