Massachusetts advocacy groups on both sides of the abortion debate reacted swiftly Friday to the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Anti-abortion groups and some religious leaders in the state celebrated the ruling, while a chorus of political leaders, health care providers and activists decried the court's decision and called for stronger protections for the state's existing laws. The ruling does not upend abortion laws in Massachusetts or other states that allow the medical procedure.
Massachusetts Citizens for Life expressed delight at the rollback of abortion rights in many other states across the U.S., but said there's still more work to do to make abortions illegal in the state.
“Despite the scare tactics from the pro-abortion lobby, abortions will unfortunately still happen here in Massachusetts," said Myrna Maloney Flynn, president of the group. "All of us at Massachusetts Citizens for Life and our thousands of members around the state are dedicated to educating the public about the humanity of the unborn and the resources available to pregnant women who need assistance.”
Archbishop of Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley called the decision "deeply significant and encouraging."
"This decision will create the possibility of protecting human life from conception; it calls us to recognize the unique burden faced by women in pregnancy; and it challenges us as a nation to work together to build up more communities of support — and available access to them — for all women experiencing unplanned pregnancies," O'Malley said in a statement.
The Massachusetts Family Institute said it looked forward to a "reenergized fight to restore a culture of life to the commonwealth."
“A child conceived in Massachusetts should have the same right to be born as a child conceived in Mississippi," said Andrew Beckwith, the institute's president. "Tragically, the whole apparatus of state government in Massachusetts is aligned against the unborn and aligned with Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry."
"A child conceived in Massachusetts should have the same right to be born as a child conceived in Mississippi."Andrew Beckwith, Massachusetts Family Institute president
Meanwhile, a number of abortion rights groups quickly called for protests. The American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood of Massachusetts are holding a rally on Boston Common at 5 p.m. Friday. The group Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights said it will organize gatherings in cities across the country, including Boston. That protest is also scheduled for 5 p.m. Friday, at Park Street station.
The ACLU Massachusetts reminded residents abortion will remain legal in the state and promised to fight to expand abortion access.
But, ACLU Massachusetts Executive Director Carol Rose said the ruling will have "an immediate and devastating impact on people seeking abortion care in nearly half of the country."
“These burdens will disproportionately fall on people of color, those struggling to make ends meet, young people, rural residents, immigrants, and LGBTQ+ communities," Rose said. "And make no mistake: Anti-abortion politicians won’t stop here. Extremists have made it clear that they will use this ruling to press for a nationwide ban on abortion, as well as bans on birth control, gender-affirming care, and equal marriage, among other basic civil rights and liberties."
Calling abortion "an essential medical component in the continuum of reproductive health care," the Massachusetts Medical Society pledged its support for health care workers in a statement denouncing the ruling Friday.
"Today’s ruling also violates the primacy of the physician-patient relationship. It undermines the ability of a patient to freely consult with their physician and determine the best course of care," the medical society added in its statement. "There will be negative health consequences for the millions of people of reproductive age who no longer have access to essential reproductive health care."
Dr. Nawal Nour, chair of obstetrics and gynecology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said the decision is “unfathomable,” even though health care providers have been preparing for it.
She is most concerned pregnant people in other states won’t have access to safe and legal abortions, so they’ll turn to unsafe methods that could be deadly.
"What is so heartbreaking for me is knowing that there will be an increased number of deaths of teenagers and women because of these laws,” she said.
"What is so heartbreaking for me is knowing that there will be an increased number of deaths of teenagers and women because of these laws."Dr. Nawal Nour, chair of obstetrics and gynecology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Nour said abortion providers nationwide are also anxious about the potential for an increase in violence against their clinics.
“Historically, there has been a high level of violence at abortion services,” she said. “And so our biggest concern now is what will the trend be, and will there be an increase in gun violence to our providers going forward?”
Kathy Simmonds, associate professor in the school of nursing at the MGH Institute of Health Professions, called the decision "devastating for the future of reproductive justice.”
“It's extremely sad to see a right people have had for nearly 50 years be taken away," she said. "But it’s also not surprising — we’ve been moving in this direction for the last 30 years because there has been a steady chipping away of the rights of people to have an abortion in the U.S., so this is essentially the cherry on top of a policy landscape that's already made it increasingly difficult for people without means.”
Attorney Jamie Sabino, with the Women's Bar Association of Massachusetts, said despite the protections in this state, the Supreme Court ruling raises many legal questions.
"Massachusetts has strong protections for choice and is continuing those protections, but everybody is going to be under the microscope," she said. "It's going to be a long fight to figure out where these restrictions are, how they can hurt people. But the bottom line is women who are poor, women of color, women who already have less access to health care are going to be harmed."
Some leaders in states with protections for abortions moved to strengthen existing laws. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, signed an executive order Friday that aims to protect medical providers who help out-of-state patients seeking abortions. He and members of the state's all-Democratic congressional delegation decried the court's ruling.
The Massachusetts Medical Society praised Baker's order and urged state legislators to strengthen legal protections for health care workers.
Dwight Duncan, a professor of constitutional law at UMass, said he expects court challenges around these kinds of protections.
“And so there’s going to be some conflict of laws in the foreseeable future. That terrain remains to be seen,” he said.
This article was originally published on June 24, 2022.