Massachusetts has failed to make significant progress in protecting women and the unborn from the harms inherent in abortion, instead recognizing a broader constitutional right to abortion than that provided by the U.S. Constitution. It has also failed to adequately limit and regulate emerging biotechnologies and has considered measures to approve assisted suicide, endangering those at the end of life.
- The Massachusetts Constitution has been interpreted as providing a broader right to abortion than provided in the U.S. Constitution.
- Massachusetts’ informed consent law is enjoined.
- Any person who provides prenatal care, postnatal care, or genetic counseling to parents with an unborn child diagnosed with Down syndrome must provide up-to-date information about Down syndrome. Mandated information includes information about physical, developmental, educational, and psychosocial outcomes; life expectancy; intellectual and functional development; treatment options; and information on educational and support groups.
- A physician may not perform an abortion on an unmarried minor under the age of 18 without the written consent of one parent unless there is a medical emergency or the minor obtains a court order.
- Massachusetts’ requirement that abortions after the 12th week of pregnancy be performed in hospitals is, under current U.S. Supreme Court precedent, unenforceable.
- Only physicians authorized to practice medicine in the State of Massachusetts may perform abortions.
- The state has an enforceable abortion reporting law, but does not require the reporting of information to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The measure pertains to both surgical and nonsurgical abortions and requires abortion providers to report short-term complications.
- Massachusetts taxpayers are required by court order to pay for “medically necessary” abortions for women eligible for public assistance. This requirement essentially equates to funding abortion-on-demand in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s broad definition of “health” in the context of abortion.
- State employee health insurance provides coverage of abortion only when a woman’s life or health is endangered or in cases of rape, incest, or fetal abnormality, and may not cover partial-birth abortions. Further, health maintenance organizations (HMOs) may not be required to provide payment or referrals for abortion unless necessary to preserve the woman’s life.
Legal Recognition and Protection of Unborn and Newly Born:
- The Massachusetts Supreme Court has determined that the state’s homicide law applies to the killing of an unborn child who has attained viability.
- The state allows a wrongful death (civil) action when a viable unborn child is killed through a negligent or criminal act.
- The state requires healthcare professionals to report suspected prenatal drug exposure.
- While Massachusetts prohibits cloning-to-produce-children, it statutorily permits cloning-for-biomedical-research and destructive embryo, making it a “clone-and-kill” state.
- The Massachusetts Public Health Council has reversed a rule put in place during the gubernatorial administration of Mitt Romney that prohibited scientists from creating human embryos for the purpose of destroying them for research.
- The state funds destructive embryo research. It also allows tax credits for “life sciences,” including “stem cell research.”
- The state does not maintain a comprehensive ban on fetal experimentation, prohibiting only experimentation on live fetuses and allowing experimentation on dead fetuses with consent of the parents.
- Massachusetts requires a degree of informed consent before a physician can harvest human eggs for purposes of assisted reproductive technologies. In the research setting, the state prohibits the purchase of human eggs for “valuable consideration.”
- Massachusetts has established an umbilical cord blood bank for the purpose of collecting and storing umbilical cord blood and placental tissues. All licensed hospitals are to inform pregnant patients of the opportunity to donate the umbilical cord and placental tissue following delivery.
- Massachusetts requires that any person who provides prenatal care, postnatal care, or genetic counseling to parents with an unborn child diagnosed with Down syndrome provide up-to-date information about Down syndrome. Mandated information includes information about physical, developmental, educational, and psychosocial outcomes; life expectancy; intellectual and functional development; treatment options; and information on educational and support groups.
End of Life Laws:
- In Massachusetts, assisted suicide is a common law crime.
Healthcare Freedom of Conscience Laws:
Participation in Abortion and Contraception:
- A physician or person associated with, employed by, or on the medical staff of a hospital or health facility who objects in writing and on religious or moral grounds is not required to participate in abortions. Medical and nursing students are also protected.
- A private hospital or health facility is not required to admit a woman for an abortion.
- Health insurance plans that provide prescription coverage must also provide coverage for contraception. The provision includes a conscience exemption so narrow it excludes the ability of most employers and insurers with moral or religious objections from exercising the exemption.
Participation in Research Harmful to Human Life:
- Massachusetts currently provides no protection for the rights of healthcare providers who conscientiously object to participation in human cloning, destructive embryo research, or other forms of immoral medical research.
What Happened in 2013:
- Massachusetts enacted legislation appropriating funds to the “Massachusetts Stem Cell Research Fund.”
- Massachusetts considered legislation prohibiting sex-selective abortions, proscribing partial-birth abortion, requiring parental involvement, and limiting abortion funding.
- Massachusetts considered legislation providing insurance coverage of artificial reproductive technologies and legislation striking portions of its current law allowing destructive embryo research and replacing it with language allowing research using human skin cells.
- Massachusetts considered a bill to legalize physician-assisted suicide.
Recommendations for Massachusetts
Women’s Protection Project Priorities:
- Women’s Health Defense Act (5-month abortion limitation)
- Women’s Right to Know Act with reflection period
- Abortion Patients’ Enhanced Safety Act
- Abortion-Inducing Drugs Safety Act
- Parental Involvement Enhancement Act
- Child Protection Act
- State Constitutional Amendment (providing that there is no state constitutional right to abortion)
- Abortion Mandate Opt-Out Act
- Defunding the Abortion Industry and Advancing Women’s Health Act
- Women’s Ultrasound Right to Know Act
- Coercive Abuse Against Mothers Prevention Act
- Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act
- Joint Resolution Commending Pregnancy Resource Centers
Legal Recognition and Protection for the Unborn:
- Crimes Against the Unborn Child Act (to protect an unborn child from conception)
- Unborn Wrongful Death Act (for a pre-viable child)
- Born-Alive Infant Protection Act
- Pregnant Woman’s Protection Act
- Human Cloning Prohibition Act
- Destructive Embryo Research Act
- Prohibition on Public Funding of Human Cloning and Destructive Embryo Research Act
End of Life:
- Assisted Suicide Ban Act
Healthcare Freedom of Conscience:
- Healthcare Freedom of Conscience Act