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By State Representative Christine Barber
The Massachusetts House of Representatives voted this week, 136 to 17, on a bill to strengthen protections for reproductive care and affirm gender in state law. I was one of 25 women legislators who spoke in favor of the bill. Below is an excerpt of my remarks on the floor of the House:
I rise to support Legislation expanding reproductive rights protectionss.
I want to thank the Speaker of the House for putting this bill to the vote immediately following last week’s Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health. With so much anger and raw emotion in my community, across the Commonwealth and the country, I am proud to be part of a legislature that is taking swift and significant action to protect access to basic rights and healthcare. .
While last Friday’s Supreme Court ruling was expected, it was still devastating. Like many of you, I am angry and scared. And I am also fueled and elated by the activism of so many who speak out, rally and protest, and our collective work to make Massachusetts a safe place for reproductive rights, abortion and affirming care. gender.
Amid all of this, I feel immense pride for our work in the previous legislative session to pass the Roe Act following the death of Justice Ginsburg. The Roe Act, which codified reproductive rights into Massachusetts state law, brings some comfort to members of my community who are terrified of having our rights taken away from us.
Since Friday, I have spoken with local physicians who live and practice in my district who are concerned about their ability to practice family medicine safely. I’ve spoken to many voters who feel like they don’t know the country they live in and feel the urgency of any protections we can provide for Massachusetts residents and residents of other states.
Restricting access to abortion care and reproductive services exacerbates racial, gender and economic inequalities. For BIPOC and low-income people, the loss of reproductive care will have even harsher consequences. Maternal and infant mortality rates among black people are already disproportionately higher. Recent studies show that denying abortion care nationwide will increase pregnancy-related deaths by 7% this year and 21% in subsequent years.
Today we address many of these concerns.
The bill before us will do much to provide these protections:
- Protect Massachusetts residents, as well as patients who travel here for care;
- Protect health care providers who provide restricted care in other states and ensure that providers’ licenses will not be at risk for reproductive and gender-affirming care that is legal in Massachusetts;
- Increase access to abortion care and reproductive health services by prohibiting user fees and deductibles, as well as restrictions or delays in care by health insurers and MassHealth.
We know that so many of our rights are under threat, not just reproductive care. The Supreme Court targets marriage equality, contraception and the protection of transgender youth. I am proud that this House of Representatives has been a leader in each of these areas, and today we are showing it again by including a right to gender-affirming care in our state laws and protections for patients and providers for this necessary care.
At a time when there are so many challenges, I am grateful to be part of the Chamber as we continue to lead and resist attacks on our fundamental rights. This action gives me hope and, I know, gives hope to our voters. Thank you for being together in this fight.
I urge you to support this bill. Thanks.
Rep. Christine P. Barber (D-Somerville), serves Middlesex’s 34th District, which includes parts of Medford and Somerville.