Massachusetts House approves bill to protect abortion access

BOSTON (AP) — The Democrat-controlled Massachusetts House of Representatives approved a bill Wednesday that aims to protect abortion providers and people seeking abortions from actions taken by other states.

The action is part of a wider effort by officials to build a firewall to guarantee access to the procedure in Massachusetts after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

The bill states that “access to reproductive health care services and gender-affirming health care services is recognized and declared to be a right secured by the constitution or laws of the commonwealth,” adding that interference with this right is “against the public policy of the commonwealth.”

The House approved the bill on a 136-17 vote. It now goes to the Senate.

The bill also states that any act by a “foreign jurisdiction” authorizing any individual to bring civil action against a person or organization seeking or offering such care in Massachusetts “shall be an interference with the exercise and enjoyment of the rights secured by the constitution and laws of the commonwealth.”

“You see other states like Texas deputizing people to come in and arrest people in Massachusetts. That’s not going to be allowed,” Democratic House Speaker Ronald Mariano said Tuesday.

A Texas law banning most abortions after about six weeks is enforceable through lawsuits filed by private citizens against doctors or anyone who helps a woman obtain an abortion.

The House bill echoes an executive order signed last week by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker barring state agencies from assisting another state’s investigation into people or businesses receiving or delivering reproductive health services that are legal in Massachusetts.

The order also protects Massachusetts providers who deliver reproductive health care services from losing their professional licenses based on potential out-of-state charges.

Both the House bill and Baker’s executive order also prohibit the extradition of someone to another state to face charges of seeking reproductive health care in Massachusetts.

The Democrat-controlled Massachusetts Senate has proposed similar language as an amendment to the state budget.

The Senate amendment also includes $2 million in funding for improving reproductive health care access, infrastructure and security in Massachusetts. A portion of those funds would also be allocated in grants to several Massachusetts abortion funds.

Supporters say it would mark the first time in Massachusetts history that the annual budget includes investments in abortion funds.