As threats to care loom on federal level, health care providers, educators, and activists mobilize on Beacon Hill
BOSTON—More than 500 people across Massachusetts asked their state lawmakers Tuesday to champion sexual health policies that will expand access to care and improve the health and wellbeing of their communities. Advocates assembled on Beacon Hill as part of a Sexual Health Lobby Day hosted by a coalition of 41 health care providers, educators, and advocacy groups.
“When we expand access to sexual health care, defend reproductive rights, and dismantle barriers to care, all people lead healthier lives,” said Dr. Jennifer Childs-Roshak, president of Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts, one of the organizations hosting the event. “Massachusetts needs smart sexual and reproductive health policies to build on the progress we’ve made and protect against renewed efforts to block people from the care they need. In this national political environment, the time is now for these proactive proposals to become reality in our state.”
Advocates encouraged their legislators to co-sponsor a three bills, including An Act Relative to advancing contraception coverage and economic security in our state (ACCESS), which would close persisting loopholes that deny some women affordable access to the contraception that’s right for them and safeguard all women’s access to no-copay contraception, and An Act Relative to Protecting Access to Confidential Health Care, which would eliminate the potential for confidentiality breaches for patients insured as dependents. Advocates also sought support for An Act Relative to Healthy Youth that would ensure schools that elect to teach sex education choose a curriculum that is medically accurate, age appropriate and comprehensive.
“Sexual Health Lobby Day couldn’t have come at a better time. With access to women’s health care under assault around the country, Massachusetts needs to lead in ensuring that our population is protected,” said Massachusetts Senate Majority Leader Harriette L. Chandler. “That’s why I filed the ACCESS bill to ensure that all women continue to receive adequate contraceptive health care coverage without a co-pay.”
Representative Patricia A. Haddad, Speaker Pro Tempore and co-sponsor of the ACCESS bill, said: “Every woman in Massachusetts, regardless of her income, social status or insurance plan, deserves access to basic preventive health care. We in the Commonwealth have long been a leader in expanding health care access, and now more than ever, we are committed to moving the state forward to ensure that no individual is left by the wayside.”
A number of state lawmakers and elected leaders joined their constituents to show support for smart sexual and reproductive health policies. The speaking program included remarks from state Senator Sal DiDomenico, state Representative Marjorie Decker, state Representative Juana Matias, peer leaders from the Massachusetts Family Planning Association’s Fall River Program, and members of the Get Real Teen Council, a sexual health peer education program run by Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts.
“I am thrilled to join hundreds of sexual health advocates from across the commonwealth for the Sexual Health Lobby Day at the Massachusetts State House,” said Representative Matias, who spoke about the importance of comprehensive sex education. “The decisions youth make regarding their well-being has profound impacts on their health and welfare for the rest of their lives. Young people have the right to lead healthy lives, and society has the responsibility to prepare youth by providing them with accurate, comprehensive sexual health education that gives them the tools they need to make healthy decisions.”
Sexual Health Lobby Day was co-sponsored by Co-sponsored by AAUW-Massachusetts; AIDS Action Committee; American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts; Asian-American Women’s Political Initiative; BAGLY Inc.; Boston Area Rape Crisis Center; Catholics for Choice; Cambridge Health Alliance - Sexual and Reproductive Health Program;
Eastern Massachusetts Abortion Fund; Fenway Health; GLAD: GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders; Greater Boston PFLAG; Health Care For All; Health Imperatives; Health Quarters; Ibis Reproductive Health; Jane Doe Inc.; Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action; League of Women Voters; Mass NOW; Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy; Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ Youth; Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women; Massachusetts Family Planning Association; Massachusetts Public Health Association;
Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition; MassEquality; Moishe Kavod House; NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts; National Association of Social Workers – MA; National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF); Our Bodies, Ourselves; Partners in Sex Education; Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts; Pleasure Pie; Sidney Borum Jr. Health Center; Tapestry; Tufts Medical Students for Choice; Women's Bar Association of Massachusetts; Women’s Health Physical Therapy; YWCA Central Massachusetts.
A June 2016 poll found 77 percent of Massachusetts voters support sex education in middle school, and 90 percent support sex education in high school. Not only do the majority of voters think young people should receive sex education in school, 86 percent think sex education program should be comprehensive. That same poll found 88 percent of Massachusetts voters support government funding for family planning services.