The ROE Act
After confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, we knew reproductive freedom was in jeopardy across the country, and that the only way to protect Bay Staters was to remove our harmful barriers to abortion care.
In addition to codifying the right to abortion care into law, the ROE Act removed a number of barriers to care in Massachusetts. It allows families to access abortion care after 24-weeks in the event of a lethal fetal diagnosis, ensuring no family is ever forced to fly across the country to access this care again. The ROE Act also repealed our judicial bypass/parental consent law for 16 and 17-year olds, ensuring they can get the care they need without medically unnecessary interference. This made Massachusetts the first state ever to repeal a parental consent law through the legislative process.
After a two-year fight that saw the dawn of a global pandemic and two vetoes from Governor Baker, the House and Senate voted to override the veto. On December 29, 2020, the ROE Act went into effect.
An Act to Reduce Racial Inequities in Maternal Health
Racial inequities in maternal health care is a serious issue across the country. Massachusetts is not immune to the effects of systemic racism in the provision of health care. In fact, Black women in Massachusetts are twice as likely to die from pregnancy-related complications as white women and also face significantly higher rates of maternal morbidity.
An Act to Reduce Racial Inequities in Maternal Health was signed into law on January 14, 2021. It created a commission that will investigate the root causes of these inequities and issue recommendations for the legislation to act upon within one year. The commission was designed to uplift the voices and leadership of Black and Brown women, as well as those who have been personally impacted by the inequities in maternal health outcomes.
We look forward to fighting to make these recommendations law.
The Cap on Kids
At the beginning of the 2019-2020 legislative session, the House and Senate voted to end a harmful and outdated law, known as the Cap on Kids.
The Cap on Kids was a relic of racist, sexist welfare reform policies of the 1990s, and aimed to limit the size of families receiving state assistance by withholding additional funds if the family had another child while receiving assistance. The Governor repeatedly vetoed repeal of the Cap on Kids in spite of overwhelming support from the legislature to repeal this harmful law. NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts was proud to stand with a broad coalition of non-profit organizations, unions, community organizations and legal groups that fought tirelessly to end this law.
On April 25th, 2019, the Senate voted to override the Governor’s veto, as the House had done on April 10, 2019. The repeal went into effect immediately.
During the 2017-2018 legislative session, NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts worked with leadership in the House and Senate to repeal archaic statutes from the Massachusetts General Laws criminalizing women’s health care. The laws repealed included:
- A ban on unmarried people accessing contraception;
- A ban on distributing information about how to access contraception or abortion care;
- A ban on distributing contraception;
- A pre-Roe v. Wade criminal abortion ban;
- A requirement that all abortions provided from the thirteenth week of pregnancy onward be performed in a hospital;
- A ban on adultery; and
- A ban on fornication.
Repeal of these archaic laws ensure that regardless of what happens in Congress or in the United States Supreme Court, Massachusetts will remain a beacon of reproductive freedom. The removal of archaic statutes was signed into law on July 27, 2018. The repeal went into effect immediately.
In 2018, NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, in coalition with Health Care for All, celebrated passage of An Act to Protect Access to Confidential Healthcare (the PATCH Act). The PATCH Act remedies a loophole in confidentiality in Massachusetts law that could have resulted in sensitive information being inadvertently provided to a health care subscriber. Previously, a Massachusetts resident receiving health insurance as a dependent on the health plan of a parent, spouse, or other family member, may not receive fully confidential healthcare if an Explanation of Benefits (EOB) was sent to the primary subscriber outlining recent health care procedures, including reproductive healthcare and other sensitive healthcare information, the patient’s confidentiality is compromised.
The PATCH Act ensures that:
- EOBs are sent directly to each patient and that patients can choose to how receive their EOB;
- EOBs are not sent for preventative health services with no cost-sharing, such as testing for a sexually transmitted infection or a domestic violence counseling session; and
- EOBs list only generic information, such as “office visit” or “medical service”, when sensitive care is provided. Sensitive care includes reproductive health care and substance abuse treatment.
On March 30, 2018, the PATCH Act was signed into law. The new law will go into effect on April 1, 2019.
Paid Family and Medical Leave, Minimum Wage Increase
In 2018, NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts worked as a coalition member of Raise Up in supporting Paid Family and Medical Leave for all Massachusetts employees. The law creates a paid family and medical leave insurance program and raises the minimum wage to $15 over five years. This bill allows all parents, including those who adopt, the time to care for their children and allows everyone to care for ailing family members without the fear of financial instability.
On June 28, 2018, Governor Charlie Baker signed this legislation into law. The paid family and medical leave benefits will be available starting in 2021, and the minimum wage will rise from the current rate of $11 to $15 by 2023.
Immediately following the 2016 Presidential Election, NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts with the Coalition for Choice lead advocacy efforts for the ACCESS Bill. The bill, An Act Relative to Advancing Contraceptive Coverage and Economic Security in Our State, ensures that all insurance carriers in Massachusetts provide all FDA-approved contraceptive methods with no copay, including over-the-counter emergency contraception. On November 20, 2017, the ACCESS Bill was signed into law. The law went into effect on May 20, 2018.
Pregnant Workers Fairness Act
In the 2017-2018 legislative session, NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts joined dozens of other leading advocacy groups in Massachusetts in advocating for the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. This legislation will ensure that pregnant workers are treated fairly on the job, are protected against workplace discrimination, and are given the reasonable workplace accommodations they need and deserve, like water and bathroom breaks. The bill received broad bipartisan support in the Massachusetts Legislature and saw unanimous favorable votes in the Massachusetts House of Representatives and the Massachusetts Senate. On July 27, 2017, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act was signed into law.
Public Accommodations Law
In 2016, NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts joined a coalitional effort led by Freedom Massachusetts to guarantee transgender Bay Staters with full and equal protection under Massachusetts law. The bill, An Act Relative to Transgender Anti-Discrimination (S.735), provides critical anti-discrimination protections that ensure that everyone in the Commonwealth can access hospitals, hotels, restaurants, and other public places without facing discrimination on the basis of gender identity. On July 8, 2017, the Public Accommodations Bill was signed into law. It went into effect on October 1st, 2017.
Pay Equity Law
In 2016, NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts worked with the Massachusetts Equal Pay Coalition to close the income gap for Massachusetts women. This law prohibits employers from asking about previous salaries in the hiring process and ensures that employees cannot be fired for discussing their salaries openly. The law also encourages employers to conduct internal reviews of their payroll to ensure equitable compensation. On August 1, 2016, the Pay Equity Bill was signed into law. The new law went into effect on July 1, 2018.
In 2013, NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts created a coalition with 48 other organizations to rally behind the Anti-Shackling Bill and urged legislators to ban the inhumane practice of shackling pregnant women who are incarcerated. The law requires correctional facilities to provide regular prenatal and postnatal medical care, including health monitoring and evaluation; a diet containing the nutrients necessary to maintain a healthy pregnancy, including prenatal vitamins and supplements; postpartum screening for depression; and written information regarding prenatal nutrition, maintaining a healthy pregnancy and childbirth. Correctional facilities must also provide pregnant and postpartum inmates with appropriate clothing, undergarments and sanitary materials. On May 15, 2014, the Anti-Shackling Bill was signed into law and it went into effect immediately.