know about Protecting those on the front lines of reproductive health
If the US Supreme Court follows the path laid out in a leaked document Judge Samuel Alito’s draft opinion that anticipates the annulment of the decision Roe v. 50-year-old Wade guaranteeing a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy, then Massachusetts can and should remain an oasis of reproductive health sanity in a nation where it will be increasingly scarce.
“We are now faced with a situation where another state, in state laws enacted by its legislature, is threatening the rights of law-abiding residents of our Commonwealth for engaging in activity lawful under our laws, enacted by our Duly elected legislature here in Massachusetts. ”, Senator Cindy Friedman told her colleagues as she introduced the budget amendment on the Senate floor. “This is a heinous and direct attack on a state’s ability to make its own laws and protect its own residents.”
Anticipating the pitched battle that reproductive rights have become, the Legislature acted wisely to codify Roe’s provisions in 2020. But the path chosen by states like Texas and Oklahoma puts Massachusetts health care providers at risk simply by doing their jobs. Those states essentially empower private citizens to sue anyone who performs an abortion or “aides and abets” a procedure. Plaintiffs with no connection to the patient or clinic can sue and recover legal fees, as well as $10,000 if they win.
But beyond the potential of bounty hunting, if the Supreme Court overturns Roe, Massachusetts, with its plethora of medical providers, it can anticipate a flood of not only patients crossing the state line, but also others seeking assistance to through telehealth. In the midst of the pandemic, the FDA allowed expanded use of abortion drug mifepristone through telehealth — a trend that opens up the potential for cross-border use.
the senate amendment will help ensure that clinicians involved in reproductive health or gender-affirming services (some 15 states have restricted such services or have pending legislation to do so) are protected from certain legal actions, including challenges to their professional license, SLAPP suits designed to silence or harass themout-of-state sentencing and extradition proceedings, assuming they are engaged in a “legally protected health care activity.”
The proposed law would cover physicians, physician assistants, pharmacists, nurses, psychologists and social workers. Courts would be prohibited from ordering anyone within Massachusetts to “give testimony or produce documents. . . in connection with litigation relating to ‘legally protected health care activity’. ”
Massachusetts is not alone in the fight to protect its own citizens. Connecticut Governor Ned Lamontsigned a similar law last month. Washington condition It recently passed legislation that prohibits its agencies from imposing sanctions against people who assist pregnant people seeking an abortion or criminalizing any pregnancy outcomes. California and New Jersey also have similar bills pending.
Legislation that makes major policy changes will typically be discussed and passed separately from the state budget. But these are not ordinary times, and the time for legislative action this year is growing short, with formal sessions ending on July 31.
Using the budget as a vehicle will, of course, require House budget negotiators to agree to the Senate amendment. And while there will be hundreds of items that will be subject to those negotiations, this one shouldn’t be subject to the usual branch rivalries.
As the nation awaits the final word from the Supreme Court, it is very likely that the states will enter some uncharted territory in the coming days. Massachusetts has a strong record of protecting the reproductive rights of its citizens, caring for all who need such services. Now is the time to extend basic legal protections to those on the front lines of providing that care.
Editorials represent the views of the Boston Globe Editorial Board. Follow us on Twitter at @GlobeOpinion.