BOSTON (SHNS) – Nearly 15 months after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, abortion rights activists in Massachusetts say the next frontier in safeguarding reproductive and maternal care access calls for strong partnerships with neighboring states.
The advocacy group Reproductive Equity Now, which helped Beacon Hill lawmakers craft the shield law strengthening abortion protections for patients and providers last summer, announced Tuesday that it’s expanding operations into Connecticut and New Hampshire.
Rebecca Hart Holder, the group’s executive director, said this is the first “regional block” of its kind to be established in the United States.
“A regional model will be especially important in the Northeast, where what happens in one state affects us all,” Hart Holder told the News Service. “We have to work across our borders and create a coordinated and strategic interstate effort to ensure as many people as possible in New England can access the care that they need, want and deserve.”
Unlike in New Hampshire, abortion access is protected under Massachusetts’ constitution. The New Hampshire Senate in April voted against legislation that would have removed civil and criminal penalties for health care providers who perform abortions after 24 weeks, a ban that took effect last year.
Christina Warriner, the incoming New Hampshire director for Reproductive Equity Now, said she plans to pursue strategies aimed at electing pro-choice lawmakers, removing the abortion ban, bolstering maternal health care, and addressing abortion care deserts in the northern part of the state. She previously served as an aide to U.S. Sen. Ed Markey and worked on campaigns, including U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s presidential bid and former Rep. Tami Gouveia’s run for lieutenant governor.
“Making sure providers can provide the best care for their patients is a huge issue for us who live in northern New England,” Warriner told the News Service.
Reproductive Equity Now’s expansion into Connecticut comes as Pro-Choice Connecticut (PCCT), a former affiliate of advocacy organization NARAL, winds down operations this fall. Liz Gustafson, PCCT’s director, is transitioning into the new state director role for Reproductive Equity Now.
“It is clear that the fight for reproductive freedom is being fought, and won, state-by-state, region-by-region,” Gustafson said in a statement. “Connecticut has seen firsthand what happens when we mobilize and organize at the state level: electing pro-choice majorities in the House and Senate, passing laws that expand access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care, and implementing bold policies to protect patients and providers.”
In Massachusetts, Hart Holder said the group remains focused on pressing the Legislature to pass the location shield law filed by Rep. Kate Lipper-Garabedian and Sen. Cindy Creem (H 357 / S 148). The legislation, which had a hearing in June, would ban tech companies from selling cell phone tracking data that can show whether people have visited abortion clinics.
In the first four months after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, there was a nearly 38 percent increase in the number of out-of-state residents seeking abortions at Massachusetts Planned Parenthood clinics compared to what was expected had Roe been upheld. That translates into an extra 45 abortions, according to a study released this month from researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard and a research center at the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts.