Members of the Massachusetts House last week passed an emergency bill that would codify the right to abortion and ensure that people who travel to the state for abortions are not prosecuted. House Bill 4930 passed overwhelmingly with a vote of 136 to 17 and was sent to the State Senate for consideration.
The bill states that “access to reproductive health care services and gender affirming health care services shall be recognized and declared to be a right guaranteed by the constitution or the laws of the Commonwealth”. It also says that any attempt by a “foreign jurisdiction” to bring a civil action against a person or organization receiving or performing abortions in the state “will constitute interference with the exercise and enjoyment of constitutionally guaranteed rights.” and the laws of the Commonwealth”. .”
Additionally, the bill includes provisions requiring health insurance companies to cover the full cost of abortion with no deductible, co-payment or cost sharing. It also expands the state’s abortion law to allow abortions after 24 weeks for “severe” fetal abnormalities in addition to the “fatal” fetal abnormality exception that currently exists.
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NBC 10 reports that many Democrats have defended the bill and just a, Rep. Colleen Garry, voiced her opposition. Garry said the bill “goes beyond” what she could support.
“We have sincere religious and personal beliefs that have been reviled by members who have spoken before me,” she said. “And that’s why I had to call and say that there are pro-life people in Massachusetts who honestly and truly believe in pro-life issues and do nothing to try to defame or judge women, and we should not be judged.”
Introduced in response to the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe vs. Wade, the legislation also follows an executive order signed just minutes after the court ruling by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker. In that order, Baker confirmed that abortion will be protected in the state and he swore that the state would not participate in any extradition requests from other states seeking to pursue criminal charges against abortionists or women who causing an abortion.
House Speaker Ronald Mariano said the “significant difference” between the House bill and the executive order “is that we enshrine it in the rule of law as opposed to his executive order, which doesn’t cover than the areas over which he has control”.
Members of the Senate (also overwhelmingly Democrats) are expected to pass their version of the bill. “There are many avenues to enshrine Commonwealth reproductive health care access in law, and so we look forward to passing a final bill that confirms our commitment to protecting reproductive rights,” said the president. of the Senate, Karen Spilka.
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