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The next battle over abortion is very local

Last month, the city of Hobbs, New Mexico, passed an ordinance blocking abortion clinics from operating within city limits. The city-wide ban would prevent a new clinic from opening in Hobbs, a clinic which would have served people traveling from Texas, one of the first states to impose an almost total ban on abortion.

Why should we care about Hobbs, New Mexico? Because the ordinance marked the first city-wide abortion ban in a state where abortion is legal and protected.

The antiabortion movement has begun the next phase in its crusade to ban abortion nationally by descending on cities and towns. More than 45 municipalities in Texas, Nebraska, New Mexico and Ohio have taken steps to ban abortion at the local level. Several of these city-wide bans are likely to be taken to court, but some, like a law in Lubbock, Texas, have already survived legal challenges. Massachusetts is not immune.

City-wide bans make it abundantly clear that the fight for reproductive freedom will not only be fought within the walls of Congress or the halls of the Supreme Court. We have to meet this battle where it is: on the ground in cities and states across the country. For too long, the reproductive freedom movement has not invested enough in building local power.

We have to meet this battle where it is: on the ground in cities and states across the country.

In the face of a devastating national repeal of individual liberties, Massachusetts has already taken bold action to expand access to abortion care and advance reproductive equity. Since the fall of Roe v. Wade, the Legislature has passed best-in-the-nation protections for abortion and gender-affirming care providers, expanded access to reproductive health care, and invested nearly $20 million in abortion providers, clinics and funds. As the Healey-Driscoll administration takes office, we look forward to continuing these efforts, implementing the latest reproductive health care law, and filling the gaps in care that still exist.

We cannot do this work at the state level without the partnership of all 351 cities and towns across the state. Right now, as anti-abortion activists descend on municipalities, our cities have an opportunity to lead. We can show the rest of the country what reproductive equity at the city level looks like.

In Salem, we worked to build off the state law and codify protections for those accessing reproductive health care and gender-affirming care. We passed a bold ordinance to prohibit the city — and any recipient of city funds — from providing assistance to anyone from out-of-state trying to sue Massachusetts providers for offering lawful care. Salem made its city values clear: We will protect patients and providers from dangerous attacks on abortion care and bodily autonomy. But Salem is not alone — leaders in Easthampton, Brookline, Somerville and beyond are already standing up and passing policies to holistically advance reproductive equity, put an end to crisis pregnancy centers’ deceptive practices, and provide reproductive health care resources.

This unprecedented crisis of public health, racial justice and economics demands a coordinated, all-branches-of-government response ...

City leaders are incredibly effective lawmakers — they know the needs of their communities, hold on-the-ground relationships and have the ability to be nimble. But municipal leaders are also stretched thin with limited resources and funds. That’s where Reproductive Equity Now comes in, a grassroots organization working to ensure the full spectrum of pregnancy care for every person across New England. Reproductive Equity Now is starting the groundwork for city leaders and providing resources to help pass bold reproductive health care policies at the municipal level.

We designed a toolkit to help municipal leaders move forward on reproductive equity. The toolkit offers towns and cities ways to take action, such as launching a public awareness campaign about where to find legitimate abortion providers, expanding municipal paid leave and allocating city dollars to support local abortion funds.

With a new lieutenant governor who has a deep knowledge of city government inside and out, and a reproductive equity leader serving on the Healey-Driscoll transition team, we have an opportunity for bolder collaboration between cities and the state to ensure Massachusetts remains the leader on abortion access and reproductive equity.

This unprecedented crisis of public health, racial justice and economics demands a coordinated, all-branches-of-government response, stretching from the White House to state houses to city halls. Antiabortion activists have been working at the local level for decades. Now we have to play the long game to win back our reproductive freedom, and that means building and organizing legislative power that cannot be defeated at the municipal and state levels.

That’s the mission ahead of us — in the fight for reproductive freedom, we need action at all levels of government. We look forward to getting started together.

Follow Cognoscenti on Facebook and Twitter.

Related:

Kim Driscoll Twitter Cognoscenti contributor
Kim Driscoll was elected lieutenant governor, joining Maura Healey to serve as the first all-women executive team to lead Massachusetts.

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Rebecca Hart Holder Twitter Cognoscenti contributor
Rebecca Hart Holder is the executive director of Reproductive Equity Now, an organization working to make equitable access to the full spectrum of reproductive health care a reality for all people.

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