This legislative session, PPAF is working to pass an intersectional policy agenda focused on ensuring everyone in Massachusetts has full access to the health care they need to thrive — particularly young people and young people of color. We’re advocating for bills that would ensure:
medically accurate, age-appropriate sex education,
HIV prevention access for young people,
medication abortion access for college students,
cash benefits for families in deep poverty,
affordable, high-quality early education and child care.
These bills will advance health equity, improve access to care, and make concrete improvements to people’s lives. Policy shapes reality, and we’re fighting for a reality that’s safe, healthy, and just — for everyone.
The need for sexual and reproductive health care doesn’t suddenly kick in at age 18. Young people need to know about sexual and reproductive health, and they deserve accurate, comprehensive sex education that doesn’t shame, scare, or judge. The Healthy Youth Act would ensure that sex education taught in Massachusetts public schools is age-appropriate, medically accurate, and inclusive. Comprehensive sex education isn’t just diagrams of internal reproductive systems and videos detailing the stages of pregnancy — it includes lessons about consent, contraception, and healthy relationships. But far too often, sex ed is devalued, with unclear or incomplete curricula. That’s a problem — young people need and deserve to learn not just about puberty but also about consent, pregnancy and STI prevention, healthy relationships, and sexual identity. Young people will make their own decisions about sex and relationships; they deserve to be equipped with accurate information for these decisions.
Young people also deserve access to preventive sexual health care, which is why PPAF is advocating to pass a bill expanding access to HIV prevention to young people. In Massachusetts, young people can already consent to STI testing and treatment — but not to PrEP, a daily pill that prevents the transmission of HIV. Incidences of HIV transmission are higher among Black and brown young people due to discriminatory structural barriers, stigma, and inequitable access to care and education. Ensuring that young people have access to PrEP will help address this disparity.
Access to sexual and reproductive health care means all sexual and reproductive health care. In college, when many young people study, work, and live on campus, they should be able to get all their reproductive health care there, too, including abortion. We’ve signed on to a bill to expand access to medication abortion on college campuses, ensuring that students at public colleges and universities can get medication abortion when and where they need it. (Stay tuned for a deeper dive on what access to medication abortion on campus means to college students.)
The goal of each one of these policies is to reduce health disparities — or unequal health across different groups of people. But disparities aren’t limited to access to health care or physical health. Racist policies and barriers have created massive wealth disparities: a 2015 study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston found that while white Boston residents had a median net worth of $247,000, Black Boston residents had a median net worth of $8. That’s not a typo — it’s eight dollars. To take steps toward remedying this injustice, PPAF is supporting a bill to increase cash benefits to families in deep poverty as part of the Lift Our Kids Coalition, supporting children and families struggling to get by. A lack of affordable child care also keeps people from fully participating in the workforce; PPAF joins the Common Start Coalition in supporting legislation that would make high-quality early education and child care affordable and accessible to all Massachusetts families.
These policies center the health and needs of young people, students, and families. They’re not only about physical health; they’re also about creating an environment that promotes overall wellbeing, including mental health and financial security. These policies, and PPAF’s advocacy, aim to build a world where all people can shape their own futures with the knowledge, resources, and health care they need.
Check out the rest of PPAF’s 2021-2022 legislative agenda, Solidarity in Action, and urge your lawmakers to pass these bills.Take action