Reproductive Equity Sets Legislative Agenda To Expand Equitable Access to Reproductive Health Care

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The following is a press release from Reproductive Equity Now submitted to SOURCE media.

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BOSTON – On the heels of the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade—and the first anniversary since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe this summer—Reproductive Equity Now is launching its priorities for the 2023-2024 Massachusetts Legislative session.

“Our 2023-2024 legislative agenda recognizes that Roe was never enough to guarantee access to the full spectrum of reproductive health care, especially for Black, Brown, immigrant, LGTBQ+, and young people. This session, we are laser-focused on passing laws to improve maternal health outcomes, break down cost barriers to the full spectrum of pregnancy care, and ensure that families have the support to raise their children without breaking the bank on child care,” said Reproductive Equity Now President Rebecca Hart Holder. “Our work continues to stop crisis pregnancy centers’ disinformation campaigns and expand abortion access across our Commonwealth, while also viewing reproductive health care with a holistic lens and passing bold policy to realize true reproductive equity in our state. The Legislature has shown tremendous leadership in response to the health care, economic, and racial justice crisis created by the fall of Roe, and we are eager to continue our partnership this session to ensure Massachusetts remains a leader in the fight for reproductive freedom for all.”

Below are Reproductive Equity Now’s priorities for the 2023-2024 session.

  1. An Act Ensuring Access to Full Spectrum Pregnancy Care (HD.1582, SD.1132) Representatives Ruth Balser and Lindsay Sabadosa and Senator Cindy Friedman

Last session, the Massachusetts Legislature took bold action to break down cost barriers to care by eliminating cost-sharing for abortion. However, high deductible plans are common so many people still face exorbitant out-of-pocket costs when trying to access the full spectrum of pregnancy care. Now, we must go further and enact legislation that would require health insurance plans to cover all pregnancy care—including abortion, prenatal care, childbirth, and postpartum care—without any kind of cost-sharing. Any financial barrier to reproductive health care limits people’s ability to make personal decisions about their reproductive destiny. Pregnant people should be the ones to dictate their own reproductive health care—not their deductibles or insurance plans.

  1. An Act Relative to Birthing Justice in the Commonwealth (SD.2401) Senator Liz Miranda

As over a dozen states have moved to ban or severely restrict abortion, we have seen the negative impact of abortion bans on the full spectrum of reproductive health care, especially for already-marginalized communities. Massachusetts has made significant strides to protect and expand access to abortion, and there is more work to be done to break down barriers to the full spectrum of reproductive health care that still exist for Black, Indigenous, and other people of color. This bill introduces a framework to improve maternal health outcomes and advance recommendations from the Special Commission on Racial Inequities in Maternal Health, including better integrating midwifery care into our maternal health care system to improve access to out-of-hospital birthing options and reducing financial and administrative barriers to the creation of free-standing birth centers.

  1. An Act Relative to Medicaid Coverage for Doula Services (HD.2452, SD.1638) Representative Lindsay Sabadosa and Senator Liz Miranda

This legislation would mandate MassHealth coverage of doula care. Doulas are trained professionals who provide physical, emotional, and educational support to birthing people not only during labor and delivery, but also before and after pregnancy. By empowering pregnant people to be their own advocate, doulas can help improve birthing experiences, breastfeeding, and maternal health outcomes. However, the cost of doula care without insurance coverage can put this critical care out of reach for low-income pregnant, birthing, and postpartum people, many of whom are Black, Indigenous, and people of color. This bill is an essential tool for the Commonwealth to reduce insurance barriers to care, help combat the maternal health crisis, and address racial inequities for birthing people.

  1. Common Start (HD.2794, SD.667) Representatives Ken Gordon and Adrian Madaro and Senators Jason Lewis and Su Moran

Reproductive Equity Now is proud to work with the Common Start Coalition to establish a five-year pathway to a universal system of affordable, high-quality early education and child care for all Massachusetts families, starting at birth. Reproductive equity is not only the ability to decide if and when to have a family—it’s also about ensuring that when you decide to become a parent, you can raise a family in a safe and healthy environment without breaking the bank on child care. Massachusetts has the second highest child care costs in the country. These exorbitant early childhood care costs harm both parents and children. 

  1. Funding for Public Education Campaign on Dangers of Crisis Pregnancy Centers

Crisis pregnancy centers, or fake abortion clinics, are facilities that present themselves as resources for people facing unplanned pregnancies, when in reality, they aim to manipulate and dissuade people from accessing abortion care. Ensuring that people know where they can access legitimate, unbiased abortion care—and where these fake abortion clinics are located—is critical to curtailing the impacts of crisis pregnancy centers’ deceptive practices. 

Last session, through both its annual budget and the economic development package, the Legislature made a clear commitment to supporting legitimate abortion care in Massachusetts, including by allocating $1 million toward a public education campaign on the dangers of crisis pregnancy centers. Unfortunately, that critical funding was vetoed in the eleventh hour. Now, with a new pro-choice governor in the corner office, we are urging the Massachusetts Legislature to again take the important step to invest $1 million in a public education campaign on crisis pregnancy centers’ deceptive practices in the FY2024 budget.

To respond to the fall of Roe v. Wade last summer, Reproductive Equity Now, along with partners at the ACLU of Massachusetts and Planned Parenthood Action Fund of Massachusetts, successfully advocated for a reproductive health care law that included over a dozen of the organizations’ recommendations, including historic steps to protect abortion and gender-affirming care providers from hostile out-of-state litigation, an insurance mandate for abortion care, and major abortion access expansions throughout the Commonwealth.

The Legislature also passed historic funding for abortion access, including $2 million in the FY2023 budget and $16.5 million in the economic development bill.

editor

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