City, News

Two years post-Roe: Greater Boston assesses local impact, looks ahead to November

June 24 will mark two years since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, a landmark case that legalized abortion in the United States, reversing a nearly 50-year precedent on reproductive rights.

In the face of increased restrictions on abortion nationwide, since the case was overturned, Massachusetts continues to legally protect abortion. Greater Boston community members and leaders recognize how two years post-Roe have impacted Massachusetts and how abortion may affect the 2024 presidential election.

In the 1973 case of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruled in a 7-2 vote that a Texas law restricting abortions was unconstitutional, according to the National Constitution Center. It decided the right to privacy implied in the 14th Amendment protected abortion as a fundamental right.

The 2022 court case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which challenged a Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, ended the federal constitutional right to abortion and delegated reproductive rights decisions to the states.

Nicole Huberfeld, a Boston University professor of health law, said reproductive rights are “everything,” as they demonstrate how people think of roles in society.

“That has been true for a long time but is even more true in the wake of the Dobbs decision,” said Huberfeld, who is also the co-director of BU School of Law’s Program on Reproductive Justice.

Massachusetts Citizens for Life formed after the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade in January 1973. MCFL’s mission is to grow the Massachusetts pro-life community and pass laws that support the overturn of Roe. 

“The Supreme Court should not have had that sort of role in an issue that was not included in the Constitution,” Myrna Maloney Flynn, president of MCFL, said.

Grace Park, a student at Wellesley College and co-president of Wellesley for Life, said Dobbs v. Jackson was “a big victory for the pro-life movement, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.”

Many states passed restrictions on abortion access following the Dobbs decision. As of May 1, 21 states ban or severely regulate abortion, according to a New York Times tracker

Since the overturn of Roe, one in three women in the U.S. live in a state where abortion is prohibited, according to Planned Parenthood. There are organizations to provide women abortion services in states where it is prohibited, such as Aid Access, a telemedical abortion service that sends women in all 50 states abortion pills after an online consultation. 

Rebecca Gomperts, the director of Aid Access, said the reversal of Roe v. Wade has inflicted “a lot of self-censorship and fear” in women who have grown afraid of prosecution for seeking abortions. 

At the same time, Flynn said, since Roe was overturned, MCFL has shifted its mission towards continuing to educate and correct “misinformation,” as women “have been sold lots of lies in the last several decades by the abortion industry.” 

Policy and activism 

The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts worked with partners in the Massachusetts legislature to pass “positive reforms” after the Dobbs decision, said Liv Santoro, deputy field director for civic education and mobilization of the ACLU of Massachusetts. 

In 2022, Massachusetts enacted a law to protect those who facilitate access to abortion services from professional sanctions and external legal challenges, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.

“We’re lucky to have state laws that protect both residents and those coming from out of state in accessing gender-affirming and reproductive health care,” Emma Staff, policy director of the Mayor’s Office of Women’s Advancement for the City of Boston, wrote in a statement to The Daily Free Press.

MOWA is committed to working with policy experts and advocates to see how municipalities like Boston can increase reproductive rights and abortion access “in innovative ways,” Staff wrote.

“Having access to the full spectrum of reproductive care is essential to ensuring that women and girls can make informed decisions that are right for their bodies,” Staff wrote.

Flynn said MCFL wants to assure women “they don’t have to feel pressured to take their baby’s life to succeed in this world.” She said choices besides abortion exist, such as pregnancy resource centers, across the country, but they are getting shut down.

“States like Florida, Texas, Ohio, their state governors sign off on literally millions of dollars to fund pregnancy resource centers and help women in need, and we’ve got [legislators who] are just trying to spend money to shut these centers down,” Flynn said.

Meanwhile, Massachusetts allotted $2 million in its state budget to abortion infrastructure after the Dobbs decision, according to MassLive. Sheila Ramirez, director of public affairs for the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, said this funding is unprecedented for the state. 

Planned Parenthood – Greater Boston Health Center. June 24 will mark two years since the 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization Supreme Court decision that ended the federal right to abortion, overturning a nearly 50-year precedent. RACHEL FEINSTEIN/DFP PHOTOGRAPHER

Despite abortion being protected in Massachusetts, Ramirez said “attacks on abortion are not siloed to other states, and they can definitely impact folks here.”

The Eastern Massachusetts Abortion Fund, which provides direct funding to people seeking abortion care in eastern Massachusetts, saw an increase in calls and the number of patients traveling to the area after the Dobbs decision, said Sarah Fitz-Gibbons, community collaborations coordinator for the EMA Fund. 

Aid Access strategically bases providers in states like Massachusetts that have shield laws to protect those providers from legal repercussions and still provide telehealth abortion pills in all 50 states, Gomperts said.

Now, two years after the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Huberfeld said “the court is not out of the business of abortion.” However, legal challenges post-Roe have begun to extend beyond abortion, she said.

“Overturning Roe has sort of opened the courthouse doors to additional litigation, making it so that people who want to move beyond access to abortion to other privacy rights or liberty interests are moving forward with those kinds of challenges,” Huberfeld said.

The Supreme Court will decide two cases in the next month. Food and Drug Administration v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine could restrict access to the common abortion drug mifepristone in all 50 states. Idaho v. United States could overturn Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act protections on life-saving emergency care for pregnant individuals. 

Lila Baltaxe | Senior Graphic Artist

Impact on the upcoming election

The impact of the Dobbs decision and the issue of abortion lingers, especially as the presidential election this November approaches. 

Santoro said abortion will be a “key issue” on the ballot in November. 

Ramirez said it is “crucial” to elect candidates who understand the overturning of Roe v. Wade is “not final” and who will continue passing legislation to protect abortion. 

To gain pro-life votes in November, Flynn said MCFL plans to communicate with “people in the middle” instead of targeting voters who share its views.  

“Once people learn the truth on abortion, they’ll support what we do,” Flynn said. “[Abortion is] certainly not the main issue for local voters because they’re worried about many other issues, and abortion isn’t going anywhere in Massachusetts.”

Taylor St. Germain, communications director of Reproductive Equity Now, an organization that aims to provide equitable reproductive healthcare access for all people in New England, said she thinks voters will “rise up” and go to the polls “in droves to support abortion access” this November. 

“Reproductive freedom is on the line in every single election up and down the ballot in every state across the country,” St. Germain said. 

More Articles

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *