Women’s Rights Safe Here

Women’s rights to seek reproductive health care, including contraception and abortion, will remain secure in Massachusetts regardless of what the Supreme Court finally does with the case before it.

The legislature has anticipated the possibility that the Supreme Court could change its views.  Over the last two sessions, we have passed legislation to modernize Massachusetts law regarding contraception and abortion. 

First, in 2018, we passed the “NASTY Women Act” — an Act Negating Archaic Laws Targeting Young Women.  This Act repealed Victorian era morality laws that criminalized adultery, fornication, contraception, and abortion.  The Act also made clear that physicians may prescribe, and pharmacists may dispense contraceptive drugs to unmarried persons.  The Senate passed it unanimously, the House passed it 138-9, and Governor Baker approved it.

Then in 2020, we passed an Act Providing for Access to Reproductive Health Services, known as the Roe Act. The Roe act fully rewrote our public health laws regulating abortion so as to remove barriers and assure access. 

The Roe Act removed charged language that defined abortion as “the knowing destruction of the life of an unborn child” replacing it with more neutral language — “any medical treatment intended to induce the termination of, or to terminate, a clinically diagnosable pregnancy.”

It added an affirmative statement of the right to abortion: “The commonwealth, or a subdivision thereof, shall not interfere with a person’s personal decision and ability to prevent, commence, terminate or continue their own pregnancy consistent with this chapter, or restrict the use of medically appropriate methods of abortion or the manner in which medically appropriate abortion is provided.”

It preserved the need for a finding of necessity in cases involving abortions of a viable fetus (after 24 weeks) but adjusted it to read: “if it is necessary, in the best medical judgment of the physician, to preserve the life of the patient, if it is necessary, in the best medical judgment of the physician, to preserve the patient’s physical or mental health or, in the best medical judgment of the physician, an abortion is warranted because of a lethal fetal anomaly or the fetus is incompatible with sustained life outside the uterus.”

Previously the late term language was narrower – limiting availability to cases where abortion was “necessary to save the life of the mother, or if a continuation of her pregnancy will impose on her a substantial risk of grave impairment of her physical or mental health.”    The legislature gave a lot of thought and discussion to the delicate adjustment in the late-term necessity language.  

Additionally, the bill lowered the age of consent to abortion from 18 to 16 and for younger patients allows that one parent or a guardian (instead of both parents) may consent.

The Roe Act was approved over the Governor’s veto, by 107 to 46 in the House and 32 to 8 in the Senate.  The Governor stated that he supported access to reproductive care, but had concerns about the lowering of the consent age.

We will continue to look for areas in which young women are running into practical  barriers to getting the care they need.

One emerging question is how to protect people who may come from other states to seek reproductive health care and also how to protect the providers of care for them.  Some states are purporting to pass laws that would criminalize or create civil liability for conduct in other states.  We are currently trying to understand what the actual exposure is and how to address it.

My sense of my colleagues in the legislature is that the overwhelming majority of them support the basic right to choose and I see no possibility that a Supreme Court decision reversing Roe v. Wade would lead to any backsliding in Massachusetts.

See this post for additional background.

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

65 replies on “Women’s Rights Safe Here”

  1. What frightens me is the possibility that the GOP also will try to outlaw abortion federally in blatant rejection of states’ rights. Keep up the good work. #WEWONTGOBACK

      1. It would be the end of the Republican Party for at least a decade.
        You decide if this would be a good thing.

    1. Yes, this is my fear as well. What happens if congress passes a nations wide ban law, which is seemingly already in the works? This would negate any state laws, no? Or would it just be continual legal battle?

    2. Yes, this is my fear as well. What happens if congress passes a nations wide ban law, which is seemingly already in the works? This would negate any state laws, no? Or would it just be continual legal battle?

  2. Thanks Will. One other thing: not only women need these services, but trans men and nonbinary people as well – given that the crackdown on abortion and contraceptive use nationwide is part of a broader movement that also harms trans people inclusive language is important.

    1. None of the quoted texts from either of the acts specifically mentions “women”. All the texts say “the patient”, so I think trans people are covered.
      I too am worried about an attempted federal ban and other states criminalizing legal acts in Massachusetts (such as the Texas bounty law.) These clearly violate due process (including jurisdiction) and the full faith and credit clause, and most likely lots of other settled case law. But the SC no longer seems to care about precedent. Maybe they’ll honor Dred Scott as precedent?

      1. I guess the argument that Men have no say and it’s a woman’s choice is no longer valid since gender is just a social construct. Saying only Woman can have babies is clearly transphobic.

  3. So in MA, it’s only “My Body My Choice” when exterminating a fetus, but not when it comes to experimental genetic injections for covid-19 that have a horrible safety profile and that do not stop infection or transmission of covid-19? Senator, why do you continue to support coercive mandates for big pharma jabs with no long term safety data? Seems like Orwellian double speak has got the better of you. Hope you wake up soon.

    1. The context regarding these very different issues necessitates different approaches – one is an issue of public health (vaccinations, masks etc) and one is a private issue that effects the carrier of the pregnancy. You’re making a false equivalency.

      1. There are no public health considerations with non-sterilizing vaccines.

        The first peer-reviewed study of non-specific effects in the very same randomized control trials submitted for authorization of the mRNA vaccines shows they produce higher all-cause mortality. The risk is stratified by age, with children at greatest danger with zero benefit. The lead author of the study, who has made a career of studying vaccines and points out that some vaccines, such as the measles attenuated live virus vaccine, actually seem to decrease all-cause mortality by making the immune system more efficient, has refused to allow her sons to take these specific mRNA vaccines.

        Shorter: The Democratic party doesn’t know and doesn’t care about science, nor does it care about bodily autonomy, but its fading totalitarian ambitions are in desperate need of new talking points.

        1. Outrageous claim. Please cite the study. The only available vaccine in the US which has caused lethal side effects (J&J, blood clots, at about 400,000 times less often than Covid kills) is NOT an mRNA vaccine.

          No law or regulation requires or has ever required anyone to get vaccinated. They only restrict the activities of people who have chosen NOT to get vaccinated. This is exactly the same as restricting drunk people from driving or unlicensed people from acting as structural engineers.

          The benefit to children receiving the vaccines is that they are much less likely to become orphans by killing their parents, are much less likely to keep the virus in circulation by acting as pools of perpetual infection, and are much less likely to breed new variants, some of which will eventually be lethal in children, and most of which evade so-called “natural immunity” due to prior infection.

          There is no such thing as a “sterilizing vaccine”. The concept is based on a completely incorrect hypothesis about how vaccines and infectious diseases work. And you have the nerve to complain about disrespect for science? News for you: science is a body of theory, experiment and data that has survived deliberate attempts to disprove it, not “opinion” or “what you want to be true.”

          Your premises are ridiculous, and, for the most part, provably false.

        2. Steve this new analysis by MIT grad Steve Kirsch, (with a link to a paper by Dr. Stephanie Seneff of MIT) speaks to the increased all cause mortality caused by the mRNA shots. Chilling stuff. Chilling that anyone would still be injecting these experimental non-sterilizing serums voluntarily, let alone supporting mandating their injection as Senator Brownsberger does..

      2. I’m just pointing out the obvious hypocrisy. RFK Jr. wrote a great book called “The Real Anthony Fauci” which docunents in detail, among other things, how our federal agencies are captured by big pharma. Unfortunately, that’s resulting in a lot of medical injury, particularly for any product classified as a “vaccine”, as the Prep Act gave all vaccine makers blanket liability protection years ago. You and John and anyone else interested in more info on this topic and see my link on why I don’t want the shot, but also I’d be happy to refer you to Children’s Health Defense ,which writes often on this new topic of the COVID -19 vaccinations and the injury and death the so-called vaccines are causing. The CDC had to change the definition of “vaccine” for these new experimental injections because they didn’t fit the old definition. https://childrenshealthdefense.org/

      1. People like John and unfortunately our State Rep are Vaccine Injury Deniers. They are closed minded and bigoted.

        1. New documents from attorney Tom Rentz on all the sudden deaths in the military since they’ve been mandating COVID-19 “vaccinations.” And there’s so much injury and disability also being caused by the experimental COVID-19 genetic injections being forced on our military. Rentz is representing two MDs who currently serve in the military, who have come forth, and put their careers on the line, to defend our men and women who are also currently serving

        2. It looks like your political science is as strong as your medical science. He is a state senator not a state rep. It even says “STATE SENATOR” at the top of the page.

  4. Glad to live in a state which has codified ROE with a veto-proof majority! I hope that we can support people seeking abortions from other states as you mentioned, both financially and by addressing the criminal/civil liability issues.
    Another area I’d love to see addressed is so-called “crisis pregnancy centers” in Massachusetts. Somerville city council recently passed an ordinance banning them, would love to see this in more cities or even statewide…
    Last, as Sarah mentioned, not everyone who gets an abortion is a woman – I saw this guide to trans inclusive language on abortion the other day:

  5. Thank you, Will.
    as was seen on the net:
    a woman voting for a Republican is like a chicken voting for Colonel Sanders.

    The octopus is the largest animal without a backbone.
    Really? I thought it was Susan Collins


  6. There are currently just seven countries in the world that allow abortions after five months of pregnancy, including America, North Korea, and China. We should evolve past demonic fetish of exterminating our progeny. 80% of abortion clinics are in minority communities. Looks like Margaret Sanger’s plan is working. We are better than this.

  7. Thank you Senator for your and your colleagues work on this issue. Like others here I am terrified that this is just the beginning and that a federal ban on abortion will be enacted as soon as it becomes politically feasible. It also seems extremely likely that LGBTQ equality and rights will be attacked next.

    Anything that the state legislature can do to codify these rights and protect people escaping regressive state governments is very much needed at this time.

  8. Sen. Brownsberger, I am disappointed that you are not standing up to defend our most vulnerable in society — babies in the womb. Not only does abortion take an innocent life, but it also irreparably causes harm and mental anguish to the mother (which may not surface until later). Also, in many instances, abortions are used to cover up child rape and incest.

    There is nothing noble about sucking a living person out of his/her mother’s womb. I would ask all abortion supporters to take a moment and stop and think about what it is that you are actually supporting. It’s not choice, it’s murder. Plain and simple.

  9. Thanks. Through your and others efforts MA is likely OK for a couple years, at least. However, as others have asked, I’m unclear as to what would happen if state law and federal law were in conflict. If there was a federal ban on abortion might the Supreme Court in its present ideological composition decide that federal law takes precedence? I might mention that right now federal law and state law are in conflict over marijuana. The feds have chosen to look the other way but couldn’t a U.S. attorney try to enforce the prohibition on sale and use of pot?

    1. If a federal law were passed, it would apply in MA. Technically the federal drug laws apply here they just aren’t being enforced.

  10. I fear the court can ban all abortion nationwide if its decision (like the draft) includes language that protects the embryo from conception (even as even a ball of cells) with full human rights that take precedence of the human rights of the mother, (even after rape or incest or in the face of life-threatening medical issues). I don’t see how our state laws offer protection then.

    1. You’re a ball of cells, Kate. So am I and every other human being on this planet. Some people just seem to think some balls of cells are more valuable than others. Some of us think all balls of cells are human at all times (because what else would they be?) and are therefore always worth protecting.

      And when did it become a human right to have your child murdered by a medical professional? You could argue it’s a civil right, but how is it a human right? We have a human right to life, not murder.

    2. When does life begin: conception, quickening, birth? All points are religious or philosophical, and what the mother holds to be true therefore any prohibition on abortion violates the First Amendment.

    3. When does life begin: conception, quickening, birth? All points are religiously or philosophically derived, or what the mother holds to be true therefore any prohibition on abortion violates the First Amendment.

      1. That’s the thing, Fred, according to science, there is no debate as to when human life begins: it’s at conception. Check any science textbook. What is really being debated is the value of the human life at its earliest stages after conception, which culture, religion, philosophy often influence. So no, a prohibition on murdering an innocent human being in the womb is not a violation of the First Amendment. You can try to keep digging through the Constitution for a carve out for this kind of murder, but you’re not going to find it.

      2. No textbook not produced for the Texas Dept of Education says that. At the time the Constitution was ratified quickening was nearly universally recognized as when human life began. Even by the Catholic Church.

  11. Thanks, Will, for bringing this to our attention and for all your good work for us.
    This is a very thorny issue, so I understand why there are such heated comments on it.
    I’m glad we live in Massachusetts where free speech is accepted if not always appreciated. That’s the
    democratic way (small d or large?)

  12. Thank you Senator for this review.

    This is no surprise at all. No national politicians should have their lackeys and lickspittle pat them on the back for being, “prescient.”

    For all the lip service over Merrick Garland, there was no real fight.

    Democrats are trapped in the DNC’s electoral strategy for good or ill.

    1. How were the Democrats supposed to protect from McConnell stealing the seat? Blame the Democrats for something that was actually in their power like showing up to vote for Hillary who was the only actual Trump alternative on the ballot. This ruling was entirely predictable in 2016.

      1. The Democrats should have raised Cain over Garland, but we start a fire in the base the DNC might get burned.

        Sometimes you have to fight an occasional losing battle to be fit for the war.

  13. The Supreme Court has belatedly confirmed that this is an issue for the individual states to grapple with. There has been too many straw dogs raised in opposition, demonstrating the ignorance many have regarding the issue of State’s Rights. What ever is not included within the Constitution of the United States granted to the Federal Government is governed by the individual states. I do not know what is more plainer than that. If the Federal Government over steps its authority, the Supreme Court has the ability and authority to reverse whatever it is, as is happening in the Roe vs Wade decision. Women can still obtain abortions within the various states that still allow it. There is such an egregious outcry over abortions, and my take is, for women to not be so careless as to become pregnant in the first instance. There is ample merchandise available on the open market; the public school system seem to be fife with sex education information; so it would seem that it is somewhat inexcusable for a female to become pregnant. And if and when a female becomes pregnant due to her own carelessness, why should a baby bear the penalty for that? Now if it were only that; but what about the traffic in baby parts that are being sold on the open market? What kind of society tolerates that? It would seem that some think that they can claim the powers of some omnipotent God like creature to take the life of a human, pre born, and shortly after being born, and over time we have witnessed movements to move the time line back from pre born to after born…how long will the time line be extended/tolerated for the post born infant????? We have become a pitiful society that permits the murder of unborn children ~ YES, unborn children, that can survive pre mature birth by MONTHS. An infant is human immediately upon conception; it certainly is not a frog; or a fish; or a dog or cat. How can anyone justify taking a human life? A baby does not become human just because of an arbitrary date of departing from the womb. And those that continue to argue the point do it for selfish purpose, either to rid themselves of their responsibility, or to sell human organs. If folks want to have control of their body, try extending that control prior to actions that get one pregnant. Shame. Shame. Shame.

    1. So your god murders children via miscarriages? What about the born children he gives cancer to?

      Human organ sales?

    2. Your repeated phrasing of women “being careless” is quite interesting, you know women don’t impregnate themselves, right?

      1. “When a female becomes pregnant…”
        Man, you need some basic biology lessons. We don’t just wake up magically pregnant one morning.

  14. Slippery slope, abortion now, what other rights on the chopping block next?

  15. Is anything being done to prevent access for MA women to abortion services? I don’t want MA women to suffer from our health care system being overwhelmed by women from other states. I’m happy to fund abortion with federal tax dollars and happy to fund abortion with MA but only for MA residents. We don’t solve this Republican created national crisis at the state level.

  16. The debate about abortion rights is intrinsically asymmetric because those of us who agree that there should be such a right, but not an unrestricted one, also accept that others who insist for religious or other reasons that any abortion is immoral – a murder – are free to make that choice for themselves and can opt not to have an abortion under any circumstance. It is not that we are pro-abortion any more than we are “pro-amputation” or “pro- surgery” if we say we would like to have that option if we or others are in a situation that requires it. A major motivation in the “no abortions whatever” movement is a religious faith that believes it has the right (God given of course) to impose its faith upon others who do not share it. Some religions do say that life begins ate conception. Others and science are more nuanced. When an embryo or fetus becomes a person remains a mystery, something that occurs not in a single moment but in a series of moments, none necessarily more important than the next. The medical community expresses this perspective as a series of landmark moments.
    The first is conception, the second is the development of the spine, the third the development of the brain, consciousness, and so on. That is why although the authors of the original Constitution could not and did not tackle the sin of slavery, they did wisely and impressively in my opinion separate Church from State, a boundary that has been eroding at the same time as the guard rails protecting rights which we thought we were guaranteed and settled. I am not a lawyer capable of finding all kinds or multiple meanings of words that can be applied to justify almost any position (as in “It depends on what the meaning of “is” is – Bill Clinton) but I am struck by the seemingly ignorant (or is it callous and depraved?) indifference of Justices such as Alito to the foreseeable consequences of their decisions and in his case the draft Roe decision if it remains essentially intact. Specifically, the additional deaths and lasting damage to their health that will result from a return to a pre-Roe era among women, predictably concentrated among low-income, both white and minority groups who lack the means to seek help far from their homes. Along with deaths from guns and opioids maternal mortality is already one of the US’s most shameful statistics, because of the appalling holes in the provision of access to health care in our very expensive, complicated, inequitable, and profit-driven approach to the health of our population, with a rate of 23.8 deaths per 100,000 live births, ranking us 36th out of 38 OECD countries. This statistic will likely become worse post Roe.

    The most effective way to limit the number of abortions is through contraception. Unsafe abortions were and will likely become again a public health crisis in many parts of the US if Alito’s draft decision stands. Lack of access to safe abortion was and will become again a public health risk. It is frightening how small a role, if any, commonsense is playing in a decision about the conditions under which abortion should be allowed given the medical implications and the inevitable increase in the number of deaths and serious injuries to women if all abortions become illegal in many and perhaps ultimately all states compared to the number of fetuses who will be conceived and may not be born if access to contraception is made universal and affordable and appropriate education is provided to young people. How many medical and public health decisions will be made by Judges (e.g., the recent ruling to eliminate the Federal mask mandate) who have no competence in the area and reflect a very one-sided, restrictive view of the way to interpret the meaning of the Constitution?

  17. Thank you, Will! We both (and most likely any Pro-Choice person paying attention) knew this was coming. So your hard work to make these significant changes in Massachusetts is so welcome.
    Barbara Cullen

  18. The continuing violence – social, cultural, religious and physical – against women and anything not white, heterosexual and male never ceases to amaze me. It also amazes me that anyone would compare laws that steal a person’s right to plan if, when and how to bear a child to policies and practices that protect the human population from deadly but preventable disease. Besides foolish, it is an example of the specious arguments that attempt to distract from the unrelenting effort to control or eliminate perceived threats – whether conscious or subconscious – to male dominance. I am grateful to live in Massachusetts where this seemingly intractable affliction is held in check by the power of reason, a belief in equal justice, and acceptance that our government cannot impose religious doctrines, but I tremble in both fear and rage that it holds sway anywhere.

  19. Thank you Sen. Brownsberger for sharing this important information and for protecting our rights as human beings to make decisions for ourselves. These are very frightening times we live in.

  20. Thank you Will.

    I wish to hear your thoughts same question many others have had: will Massachusetts state law protect health care if there is a federal ban?

    Do we have to enshrine privacy and a right to personal autonomy in health care in the state constitution? The same issue may arise with treatment for trans people as is now arising for patients seeking to terminate pregnancies.

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