THE MASSACHUSETTS LEGISLATURE is starting to prepare for a post-Roe v Wade world, providing state tax dollars to organizations that help women pay for abortions and investing in security and infrastructure at abortion providers.
The House got the ball rolling in its budget, appropriating $500,000, and the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday rolled out a budget proposal that ups the number to $2 million.
“This budget invests $2 million for grants to support improvements in reproductive health access infrastructure and security to ensure we protect those who seek abortion and reproductive health care,” said Senate President Karen Spilka.
Three nonprofit organizations that provide financial assistance to women seeking abortions — the Eastern Massachusetts Abortion Fund, the Jane Fund of Central Massachusetts, and the Abortion Rights Fund of Western Massachusetts — are specifically mentioned in the budget line item.
The Department of Public Health, which would be charged with dispensing the funds, would determine how much money will go to the three organizations and how much would go to abortion providers for improved security. Tension over abortion is expected to ratchet up if the US Supreme Court follows through on a leaked draft decision and overrules the 1973 Roe v Wade decision that legalized abortion.
The funding is unusual because it would be the first time the state is investing tax dollars directly in private organizations that provide financial help to those seeking abortions or in enhancing security at abortion providers. State tax dollars do support MassHealth, the state/federal health insurance program for low-income residents that does cover abortions.
The amount of the funding being proposed in the budget line item is also unusual. In their latest tax filings, the three organizations named in the line item reported combined revenues of $505,550, so the new state funding could represent a big increase in their budgets.
Lawmakers pushing for the funding are not saying Massachusetts is going to become a mecca for abortions if Roe v Wade is overturned and some states begin to clamp down on abortion. But they are not shutting any doors to women coming from out of state.
Sen. Michael Rodrigues of Westport, the chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said the point of the funding was not to support women from out of state who are seeking abortions in Massachusetts. “No,” he said, “this is ensuring that whoever accesses these services at these facilities can feel safe and the people that work there can feel safe.”
Rep. Thomas Stanley of Waltham, who filed the amendment in the House for $500,000 in funding, said he expected more women to come to Massachusetts seeking abortions if Roe v Wade is overturned,
“The primary reason [for the funding] is for Massachusetts residents, but I don’t think there is a limitation on that,” he said.
Kate Glynn, the co-chair of the Abortion Rights Fund of Western Massachusetts, said people are already coming to Massachusetts for abortions from out of state, but most of the time that’s because coming to Massachusetts is more convenient. She said that may change somewhat if Roe v Wade is overturned.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen whenever the actual decision lands,” she said. “The best that we can do is be prepared for what’s coming.”
Glynn said she doubted there would be pushback if state funds were used to finance abortions for people from out of state. “People understand that where you live or how much money you make should not dictate your right to bodily autonomy,” she said.
The websites of the other two nonprofits providing funding for abortions indicate out-of-staters are welcome. “The Eastern Massachusetts Abortion Fund (we call it the EMA Fund) is [a] volunteer-run 501©3 organization that works to ensure that all people living in or traveling to eastern Massachusetts have access to abortion,” says the nonprofit’s website.
“The Jane Fund is a 501 ©3 administered buy an all-volunteer board of local, Central Ma residents. Our mission is to fund and support access to abortion in Central MA and beyond,” the organization’s website says.
In 2020, Massachusetts lawmakers passed the ROE Act in response to the conservative tilt on the US Supreme Court. The law codifies Roe v Wade into state law and expands its reach by allowing the procedure after 24 weeks when deemed necessary by a doctor, and lowers the age of consent from a parent or judge from 18 to 16.