SD 940, HD 1937
Sponsored by Senator Harriette Chandler and Representative Byron Rushing
Women in Massachusetts have the right to access the full range of sexual and reproductive health care services and make informed, medically-sound decisions about their health and well-being. Despite Massachusetts’ commitment to promoting public health and improving access to health care, Massachusetts is one of the few remaining states in the nation with an unconstitutional law banning abortion that has never been repealed by the legislature. An Act Updating the Public Health Laws would repeal three archaic, unconstitutional laws that, if enforced, would restrict access to contraception and abortion and could jeopardize women’s health and well-being.
These archaic laws were passed at times in history when women were second class citizens, had little to no economic freedom, and when their husbands or the state governed their decisions, including decisions about their own bodies. Keeping these antiquated and unconstitutional statutes flies in the face of the state's commitment to women's health. At a time when reproductive rights are under attack nationally, Massachusetts must affirm its commitment to protecting women’s right to essential health care and expunge these dangerous laws that could be used as legal weapons and women and their doctors.
If passed this law will:
Repeal a Ban on Abortions
The Massachusetts abortion ban, dating back to the mid-1800s, is unconstitutional under both the United States and Massachusetts Constitutions. The ban applies throughout pregnancy and contains no exceptions, even to save a woman’s life. In the 1981 case of Moe v. Secretary of Administration and Finance, the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) found a substantive right to an abortion under the Massachusetts constitution. The SJC further found that the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights affords a greater degree of protection of privacy, and therefore abortion, than the Federal Constitution.
Remove a Barrier to Abortion Access
Massachusetts has an unconstitutional requirement that all non-emergency abortions after the twelfth week of pregnancy must be performed in a hospital. There is no medical justification for this barrier to care, and few hospital facilities actually provide such care. This bill removes this requirement, which the Massachusetts Appeals Court has refused to enforce in light of U.S. Supreme Court precedent finding similar mandates unconstitutional.
Lift a Ban on Contraception for Unmarried Couples
Massachusetts has an unconstitutional law that bans unmarried people from using contraception. This law was invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1972 in Eisenstadt v. Baird, holding that the constitutional right to privacy extends to the reproductive decisions of unmarried people.