Mass Dissent – Abortion Access in Massachusetts – Interview with Margaret Batten (7/18/2022)

Abortion Access in Massachusetts:

Conversation with Margaret Batten, Board Member of

Eastern Massachusetts Abortion Fund

We had the pleasure of speaking with Margaret Batten from the Eastern Massachusetts Abortion Fund (EMA) to discuss the impacts of the Dobbs decision, next steps, and how the NLG-Mass Chapter can best support those advocating for abortion access.

The conversation started with an update on the state of abortion access in Massachusetts. The most important takeaway is that abortion is and will remain legal in Massachusetts for the foreseeable future. Massachusetts is also working to become a safe haven for out of state persons; however, that is complicated by rapidly changing state laws. Fortunately, the If/When/How Repro Legal Helpline is available to provide all persons the most up to date laws for those seeking an abortion as well as those assisting with the abortion process.

Governor Baker signed an executive order immediately following the Dobbs decision to protect providers and patients in Massachusetts. The executive order also attempts to block extradition of out of state persons who come to Massachusetts to obtain an abortion and those assisting with the logistics of coming from out of state. However, Margaret stated that it is unclear if the Governor has the authority to block extradition due to the legal complexity of the issue. The Massachusetts legislature is working on a bill to expand the Governor’s executive order, which includes provisions to expand access to abortion, provide no-cost or no-copay abortions, provide medication abortions on all state college campuses, and prevent the state from using any resources to investigate persons from other states.

Margaret pointed out that, while abortion remains legal in Massachusetts, it is still not equally accessible to all persons. There are parts of the state that do not have an abortion provider in the area, and, even when an abortion provider is available, access still remains unequal. It is important to continue to advocate for abortion access for all persons and promote legislation that will ensure access continues in Massachusetts.

Additionally, Margaret noted that, despite Justice Kavanaugh’s statement that SCOTUS is done with the abortion issue, SCOTUS is far from done as there will be numerous legal claims over the next several years stemming from the Dobbs decision.

It is a real concern that we may get to a point that it is unsafe to travel from state to state if you have received an abortion or assisted with access to an abortion. Our lives are also heavily digitized, which raises the concern of digital privacy and states using our data trail in abortion investigations.

We asked Margaret what people can do to fight the Dobbs and its consequences. Margaret emphasized following the lead of those who have been advocating for reproductive justice long before the Dobbs decision. She placed additional emphasis on the need to follow the leadership and elevate the voices of persons of color since they have never had equal access to abortion and will therefore be disproportionately impacted by the Dobbs decision. People can also help by supporting their local abortion fund through monetary donations or sharing their information on social media, supporting independent abortion clinics that rely heavily on monetary donations, signing the Mass Beyond Roe agenda, and contacting legislators. Margaret also said we can all help to destigmatize abortion by talking to people about the importance of abortion access and finding space for persons who had an abortion to share their stories.

We concluded our conversation discussing the role lawyers and other legal workers will play as the legal landscape surrounding abortion access is becoming more and more complex. Margaret mentioned an initiative out of the New York Attorney General’s Office called the Reproductive Justice Task Force, which includes a pool of lawyers willing to research and gain expertise in the various niches of this area of law. She hopes that Massachusetts can follow suit and create a similar task force, which she thought would be a great way for NLG-Mass to further our involvement.

Information on Massachusetts Abortion Laws

Massachusetts and Federal Laws Regarding Abortion

Massachusetts Policies Regarding Abortion

Information on Executive Order Protecting Access to Reproductive Health Care Services

Signed by President Biden on July 8th, 2022