The Supreme Court's road to overturning Roe v. Wade traveled straight through state legislatures. For decades, the anti-abortion movement has invested in state races and governments, leading to increasingly extreme abortion bans throughout the South and Midwest, and even in neighboring New Hampshire. As a result of these state-based efforts, federal constitutional abortion protections have just been stripped away.
We need to meet the fight where it’s at: in the states. To win that battle, we need strong state leaders committed to reproductive freedom. Massachusetts must act now to protect patients and providers here and to help patients and providers in other states.
We are seeing the impact of abortion bans in some states already. The stories we have heard out of Texas — where a six-week unconstitutional abortion ban is already enforced — are heartbreaking. Clinics in surrounding states have seen an 800% increase in demand for abortion care. Wait times are stacking up for abortion appointments in neighboring states. People are forced to travel thousands of miles away from home to access care. Providers, their hands now tied, are turning patients away. People of color, LGBTQ+ people, young people, immigrant communities and those with low incomes will continue to bear the brunt of these catastrophic bans.
Banning abortion is not just a gender equality issue, it’s an issue of economic justice, and its impact will be devastating to our economy. Current state abortion restrictions cost about $105 billion every year. A half-million women would have been able to join the workforce if we didn’t have the restrictions we have today. People who were blocked from abortions saw an 80% increase in bankruptcies, evictions and tax liens. We will now see those numbers magnify.
Banning abortion in a country without universal access to health care, with the highest rates of maternal mortality in the developed world, without affordable child care or paid leave, and in the midst of a baby formula shortage is cruel — and, frankly, stupid — on a level that is hard to comprehend. Despite Massachusetts senators' most dedicated efforts, a fractured Congress is unable to currently pass these family policies, and our focus must turn to the states to protect and expand access to care.
Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling, abortion will remain legal in Massachusetts — because we’ve been doing the work to protect it for years. In 2020, we passed the ROE Act, which removed anti-abortion laws from our books and codified the right to safe, legal abortion in Massachusetts. And if Congress passes a federal abortion ban, we will not enforce it.
But even so, Massachusetts has a responsibility to continue to lead and expand access to care. It is who we are.
We must stand for compassion, care and respect when other states won’t. We will be a beacon of hope to patients desperately searching for care across the country. At a time when ultra-conservative politicians and Supreme Court justices talk the talk about “freedom” while taking away ours, Massachusetts — the birthplace of the American Revolution and home to the world’s oldest functioning written constitution — will show them just what liberty looks like.
Our next governor needs to be fearless about protecting access to safe and legal abortion, breaking down systemic barriers to these services, and expanding access to comprehensive reproductive care for all. This means working alongside advocates like Reproductive Equity Now and their partners to implement the recommendations of the Beyond Roe Coalition, including legislation to end cost-sharing for all types of pregnancy care, executive action to promulgate ROE Act standards and ensure no one must travel out of Massachusetts for abortion care, and protections for providers who offer care that is legal in our state.
The two Republican candidates for governor have made clear that they can’t be trusted to protect our rights. They cozy up to radical conservative groups and politicians that push harmful abortion bans. One even supported the premise of the leaked opinion and reaffirmed his opposition to the ROE Act — the firewall that will ensure that we don’t go down the same path as Texas, Mississippi, and others.
Massachusetts will lead, as we always have — for women and girls, for people of color, for LGBTQ+ youth, for everyone who has watched their rights be dismantled.