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Leaders of the Beyond Roe Coalition were joined by a crowd of elected officials and supporters on the steps of the Massachusetts State House Friday afternoon for an impassioned call to continue the fight to protect abortion access, in the face of the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade.
Speakers encouraged people in Massachusetts with appointments for abortion care to keep their appointments, as abortion rights are still protected in Massachusetts through the Roe Act.
“I want to be very clear, abortion is and it will remain legal in Massachusetts. The court decision does not change this. Abortion is health care,” Nate Horwitz-Willis, Planned Parenthood Advocacy League of Massachusetts’s executive director, said. “We are proud to be the leading provider of sexual and reproductive health care in Massachusetts to include abortion. So our doors are open, and they will remain open to anyone who comes to Massachusetts.”
Attorney General and candidate for governor Maura Healy lamented the world that her nieces are entering and said “we are going to make damn sure that this is taken care of and that this is made right.”
“This is a really bad day. I graduated from law school in 1998. Never would I have thought that constitutional rights would be taken away. It’s never happened before. … What happened today is really unfathomable, and it’s really distressing,” Healy said. “This is an attack on women. This is an effort to keep women down.”
Rebecca Hart Holder, the executive director of Reproductive Equity Now, decried the Supreme Court’s decision and emphasized that Massachusetts is not immune to future threats to abortion access, but said advocates would continue fighting.
“This is a monumental health care crisis. This is an economic justice crisis. It’s a women’s rights crisis. It’s a queer justice crisis. It is a human rights crisis. It disproportionately impacts low income people and people of color,” Hart Holder said.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren echoed Hart Holder’s point, saying she is “angry and determined” in the fight to protect reproductive health care rights.
“I am angry. I am angry because I have lived in an America where there was no protection from Roe vs. Wade. And understand this when there’s no Roe people still get abortions. Well-to-do women, women with resources, women who can afford to travel to another state or another country — they’ll be fine. But you know who won’t be?” Warren said. “It will be poor women. It will be people of color. It will be 14-year-olds who are molested by their coach or their stepfather. It will be moms who are already working three jobs and can’t hold it together trying to take care of the children they have. Those are the people who will pay the price for an extremist Supreme Court that has decided that they, not America, they will decide who in this country has access to health care.”
The managing attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, Jessie Rossman, said there is no where else she would rather be because she knows the “commonwealth is going to fight back with everything that we have” and will work to protect people in this “unprecedented health care crisis.”
“The need for us, Massachusetts, to be a leader in this area and ensuring that we’re doing everything we can to provide access, to protect providers, to protect patients, has increased astronomically, and that is what we are trying to do with the Beyond Roe Coalition,” Rossman told Boston.com.
The ripple effects of this decision will not stop with abortion access, advocates said. The Supreme Court’s majority opinion lays out other landmark cases protecting contraception and same-sex marriage that may be at risk now.
“[Justice Clarence] Thomas already made clear he’s coming after everybody else. He’s coming after the LGBTQ community. He’s coming after contraception. He’s coming after anyone who doesn’t live and doesn’t look just like Clarence Thomas thinks that the ideal American is supposed to live and look,” Warren said. “Well we’ve got news for Clarence Thomas, he doesn’t get the last word.”
Though Friday’s decision was expected, Horwitz-Willis called it “devastating” and “very dangerous.”
“This decision is an assault on bodily autonomy and it will put the health and the lives of pregnant people at risk that are forced to carry a pregnancy to term against their will,” Horwitz-Willis said.
Because Massachusetts has protections in place for abortion rights, Beyond Roe Coaltiion leaders said they expect a surge of patients coming to the commonwelath to seek out reproductive health care, an eventuality Horwitz-Willis said Planned Parenthood is expecting.
“We need folks to join us in this work. Please. Get your friends, get family members, get people in your community to organize to help pass this agenda. Because reproductive freedom is important so everyone has the ability to make their own choices so that way, they can control their body and their future,” Horwitz-Willis said.
Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said even though this decision was expected, it does not make it any easier.
“Justice for all means reproductive justice, gender justice, queer justice. Liberty for all means the all inclusive freedoms that guarantee every person agency over their own body,” Wu said. “Even in states here like Massachusetts, we must see this decision for what it is: an attack on all of us.”
Healy, among other speakers, called on people to make sure to vote in November and in future elections.
“I can promise you, as attorney general, we’re going to make sure that no one is investigated. No one is harassed. No agencies or law enforcement. No one is going to be vilified or under attack. We are going to take care of our providers. We are going to take care of our patients here,” Healy said.
Many speakers asked people to contribute what they can in states that will imminently ban abortion, by donating to abortion funds.
“We will do everything we can in Massachusetts to fight, not just for our own kids, not just for our own communities, not just to gird ourselves and brace and ensure that we can have a model of leadership here, but to take this fight across the country, to take our resources, our organizing, our determination that we will ensure the American dream lives on,” Wu said. “Boston is not a city that takes our rights lightly. Here in the birthplace of revolution, we have always, always fought for each other, and we’re damn good at it.”
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