Mass. Legislature Takes Action to Defend Reproductive Freedom

Representative Mike Connolly joined his Cambridge and Somerville colleagues in the legislature to pass S.2260, An Act negating archaic statutes targeting young women. This legislation repeals certain unconstitutional laws that impose criminal penalties for abortion and contraception in Massachusetts. With the future of reproductive freedom now in doubt on the federal level, the Massachusetts legislature is taking this action to protect the rights of women across the Commonwealth.

This bill repeals the following archaic statues that are still on the books in Massachusetts:

  • Requirement that abortions performed after the thirteenth week of pregnancy be performed in a hospital
  • Restriction limiting contraception access to only married couples
  • Criminalization of adultery
  • Criminalization of fornication
  • Criminalization of procuring a miscarriage
  • Criminalization of advertisement of abortion services
  • Criminalization of selling or giving away instruments or drugs to cause abortion

These archaic laws were previously deemed unconstitutional under several U.S. Supreme Court rulings, including Eisenstadt v. Baird (1972), Roe v. Wade (1973), and Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health (1983).

Reproductive healthcare and a women's right to chose are now under severe attack in Washington. With Justice Anthony Kennedy's resignation from the Supreme Court and Judge Brett Kavanaugh's nomination, concern looms about the vitality of women’s reproductive health rights as guaranteed by Roe v. Wade

"I am proud to cast my vote in support of repealing these archaic laws that could be used to restrict abortion, deny contraception to unmarried people, and limit family planning services," Rep. Connolly stated prior to the vote. "Passage of this legislation is absolutely critical right now because we know that Donald Trump and Republicans in Washington are determined to undo decades of jurisprudence that protects reproductive freedom."

“I’ve been concerned about the impact of archaic laws remaining on the books since the fight for marriage equality,” said Majority Whip Rep. Byron Rushing, who represents Boston's South End. “During the fight for marriage, Governor Romney demanded city and town clerks enforce the 1913 law that prevent marriages in Massachusetts if they were not legal in the couple’s home state. This law was originally used to prevent interracial couples from coming to Massachusetts to be legally married here.  After decades in obscurity, and not being enforced – but still ‘on the books’ – it was then used to prohibit marriage for same sex couples. It is critical that we take all archaic laws off of our books, because we never know how an old, hateful law will be used in new, hateful ways in the future.”

"There have been repeated attempts to limit a woman’s right to make decisions about her healthcare choices, contraception and access to care," said Representative Claire D. Cronin, Chair of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary. "We must ensure that if this occurs, in Massachusetts we have taken the necessary steps to protect the right to choice, and access to healthcare and information necessary to make private medical decisions."

Furthermore, Rep. Connolly recognizes the work to guarantee full access to reproduce health care in Massachusetts is far from over. That is why he sponsored legislation to repeal parental consent requirements for minors seeking an abortion.

Rep. Connolly would like to thank Chair Claire Cronin, Majority Whip Byron Rushing, Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo, along with Rebecca Hart Holder and the team at NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts for their work on this issue, as well as Planned Parenthood Massachusetts and the ACLU of Massachusetts.

The bill was sent to the Governor’s desk on July 19, and he has until July 26 to take action on it.

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