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Governor Maura Healey is committed to making abortion available in Massachusetts.
Governor Maura Healey is committed to making abortion available in Massachusetts.

BOSTON – Facing an expected Supreme Court ruling in two cases involving emergency abortion care, Massachusetts Gov. Maura T. Healey issued an executive order Monday that she said would make the state a “beacon” for reproductive rights.

Flanked by health care industry representatives, insurance providers, lawmakers, state health officials and advocacy groups, Healey said women in Massachusetts and those traveling to the state will “always have access to life-saving emergency care,” including abortion care.

Essentially, the order notifies the insurance industry, emergency medical service providers, health care providers, and state government agencies that such emergency medical treatment is available upon request.

“In this building, we show unity on this issue,” Healey said. “Today, we make clear a woman’s choice. Her reproductive choices are hers. There is no doubt that they will be defended in Massachusetts.”

The Supreme Court is expected to soon decide two cases, Idaho v. United States and Moyle v. United States, which address Idaho’s near-total abortion ban and whether it conflicts with federal law.

“The Supreme Court must decide whether people with pregnancy complications should be allowed to live,” said Rebecca Hart Holden, president of Reproductive Equity Now.

“We need to be prepared and ready and clarify what applies in Massachusetts,” Healey said.

Massachusetts has already codified a woman’s right to an abortion, which is legal in the state up to 24 weeks (later abortions are decided on a case-by-case basis). Following the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the state passed a protection law designed to protect patients and providers from prosecution and lawsuits stemming from other states’ abortion restrictions.

According to Reproductive Equity Now, a Department of Health study indicates a 37% increase in demand for reproductive care services since June 24, 2022. Providers in Massachusetts are also leaders in telemedicine abortion care and have sent thousands of doses of mifepristone to states that restrict or ban abortion.

The state has a supply of the drug purchased as part of the Dobbs decision. That supply of 15,000 doses will not be distributed outside the state.

“We will continue to keep these to ourselves; I don’t trust what the Supreme Court, the Justice Department or anyone else will do,” Healey said.

“The issue is clear. The Supreme Court, federal courts and state legislatures deal with abortion, IVF (in vitro fertilization) and contraception; the issue is ongoing,” Healey said, explaining that her decision Monday provides clear guidance for Massachusetts lawmakers.

The providers said they were afraid to travel to other states and feared being arrested, questioned and investigated for their role in performing abortions on patients from other states, Healey said.

“Abortion bans in other states are impacting Massachusetts,” Healey said. Local health care providers are seeing an increase in their patient volumes, she said, and abortion restrictions in other states have led women to avoid early abortions even though abortions are safer and less expensive.

“There are many reasons why women need abortions,” Healey said – they experience miscarriages, they suffer from life-threatening conditions such as ectopic pregnancies and preeclampsia that require a rapid response. “Early interventions are safer, more effective and do not pose as much risk to women.”

In early June, Healey announced an awareness campaign targeting so-called “pregnancy crisis centers.” The campaign includes a hotline that directs residents to certified health care providers.

By Aurora