At Planned Parenthood, our advocacy is about more than just sexual and reproductive health care and rights. In the words of Audre Lorde, “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.” Planned Parenthood takes an intersectional approach to our advocacy because if someone is barred from economic stability or constantly stressed about finding reliable transportation, they won’t be able to thrive as they deserve to — no matter how good their reproductive health care. Public health is linked to racial justice, economic justice, and immigrant justice.
Right now, the Massachusetts legislature has a chance to advance racial, economic, and immigrant justice with one bill — the Work and Family Mobility act. You might have heard this called “the driver’s license bill.” The bill, currently under consideration the state legislature, would ensure people can obtain a Massachusetts driver’s license, regardless of immigration status. Having a driver’s license means you can safely and legally drive to work; you can care for yourself and your families, including traveling to and from doctor’s appointments; and you can be active members of your communities.
This bill is championed by the Driving Families Forward Coalition, and the Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts is proud to be part of this group. In supporting the Work and Family Mobility Act, Planned Parenthood is following the lead of Black feminists from the Combahee River Collective to SisterSong. We’re advocating for legislation that will improve Planned Parenthood patients’ full control over their lives and destinies, bodily autonomy, and agency in the world.
Having a driver’s license can be crucial to that agency. To people who don’t have to worry about their immigration status, a driver’s license may seem like no big deal, but a driver’s license actually is a big deal — especially to someone who can’t get one. For someone who’s undocumented, the ability to get a license is about more than just being able to drive a car. It’s about their health and safety.
Immigration status — and the many barriers constructed by a lack of documentation — deeply affect the lives of many Planned Parenthood patients. It affects their health, wellbeing, and ability to raise their families. Consider this: some prescriptions require ID before they can be filled, as do over-the-counter medicines like Sudafed and other cough medicines. People who can’t get a license because they are undocumented might not be able to travel to health care appointments, even for urgent health needs.
Being able to legally drive is crucial to being able to keep up with regular health care, especially since very few areas of Massachusetts have reliable, affordable public transit options. What’s more, increasing housing costs in urban areas are pushing people with low incomes out of expensive areas like Boston and Cambridge into more rural areas where there is little public transit. Plus, the rising cost and increasing scarcity of rideshares, especially in the greater Boston area, means that some people simply have no way to get where they’re going — to work, to school, to their health care — without driving there. This is a public health issue: people simply cannot get to their health care.
The lack of transportation options means some people may delay or skip preventive care visits, and minor health issues can escalate into emergencies. But health care at emergency rooms is much more expensive than preventive care, and ambulance rides are often extremely pricey and not covered by insurance. What could have been a simple visit at a primary care provider can turn into a full-scale health emergency. One way to prevent that situation is to ensure that everyone can safely drive to their health care.
The Work and Family Mobility Act is not only about driving to a doctor’s appointment. It’s about dignity. Everyone should be able to engage in their communities and be a part of their families’ lives, without fear. By denying people driver’s licenses, Massachusetts law is also denying them the ability to live a free, full life with dignity.
It’s time to ensure everyone in Massachusetts can protect their health, care for their families, and live their lives. One important step toward that future is ensuring everyone can safely get the transportation they need. We need the Work and Family Mobility Act.