By Stella Tannenbaum and Emma Hagert
State legislation requiring public colleges and universities in Massachusetts to offer medical abortions at campus health centers, among other measures to expand and protect abortion access, was signed into law on Friday by the Governor Charlie Baker.
Since the Supreme Court’s vote last month to overturn Roe v. Wade – who had guaranteed the right to legal and safe abortions for 50 years – states like Alabama, Arkansas and Missouri have implemented abortion bans.
Jennifer Childs-Roshak, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, wrote in a press release Monday that the law “unequivocally affirms that abortion is health care.”
“Zip code, income, or identity should not be a barrier to care,” Childs-Roshak wrote. “Until these protections are enshrined in law, providers and patients in Massachusetts will live in fear of the repercussions of regressive laws passed by other states.”
Patricia Stewart, executive director of Massachusetts Citizens for Life, wrote in a statement to the Daily Free Press that the organization is grateful for the Supreme Court’s decision and plans to work with lawmakers to pass pro-life laws.
“It is also vitally important to protect women with unplanned pregnancies and their unborn children from the death machine that is the billion-dollar abortion industry,” Stewart wrote.
While the law would mandate access to medical abortion only at public colleges, Shana Weitzen, a student at Students for Reproductive Freedom, said the group hopes to work with Student Health Services to bring this resource to life. available to students at Boston University, a private university.
Following the Supreme Court’s decision, President Brown wrote a letter to the BU community expressing “deep disappointment”, calling it a “huge step backwards in protecting the rights of all women in our country”. Weitzen said she appreciated the sentiment, but was concerned about Brown’s lack of gender-neutral language.
Weitzen, a sophomore at the Pardee School of Global Studies, said the only reference to “women” excludes transgender, intersex and non-binary people. She said this language is particularly upsetting for a letter sent out to the entire community.
“It’s not just a women’s issue,” Weitzen said. “People who are part of the LGBT community who need abortions, [but] don’t identify as women…it’s harder for them to get the reproductive health care they need.
Alternative phrases that are more inclusive, Weitzen said, are “people with wombs,” “people with wombs,” or “people giving birth.” However, Weitzen said she was glad BU released a statement.
Planned Parenthood strives to provide “gender-neutral healthcare,” said a spokesperson for the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts. The spokesperson, who declined to be named, said it was intentional to use language such as “people who have abortions”.
“[We] definitely encourage anyone who speaks about this issue to use inclusive language because this is absolutely healthcare that more people than women can and are looking for,” the spokesperson said.
Massachusetts law still protects access to abortion and reproductive health care. Planned Parenthood offers abortions, STI testing, emergency contraceptives, and contraceptives, among other services. They also offer a free, anonymous, and confidential sexual health counseling and referral hotline that is available to in-state and out-of-state residents.
BU will continue to provide counseling on pregnancy options and health insurance that covers the cost of reproductive health care procedures, according to Brown’s email. The university’s basic student health insurance plan will cover 80% of the cost of an elective abortion in the network and after a $250 deductible.
Mackenzie Pike, co-chair of Students for Reproductive Freedom, said these services are positive offers, but the process needs to be streamlined and without shame.
“I think the services are good, but you have to work on how they’re delivered,” Pike said.
In March, Students for Reproductive Freedom unveiled an on-campus emergency contraceptive vending machine, which Pike said was partly driven by students having difficulty obtaining reproductive health care with Student Health Services. . The club also plans to develop fundraisers to support abortion funds.
Pike pointed out that Students for Reproductive Freedom is a place not only for activism but also for camaraderie and education about reproductive justice. Weitzen said the club is a supportive and LGBTQ-friendly space.
“It’s really nice to have a place where you can go and vent that anger with people who will fully vent it with you, but also want to do something about it,” Weitzen said.