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Abortion Access and Criminal Liability in Massachusetts Post-Roe v. Wade

Abortion remains legal in Massachusetts despite the U.S. Supreme Court striking down Roe v. Wade, which ended the federal right to abortion, allows states to enact abortion bans, and invites criminal prosecutions of abortion recipients and people providing support. In December of 2020, the Massachusetts state legislature passed the Roe Act, which requires that abortion remain legal for pregnancies up to 24 weeks, and beyond 24 weeks in situations deemed necessary by a doctor. The Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health does not change that.

It is safe to assume that people seeking to terminate pregnancies who live in states where abortion is prohibited or otherwise inaccessible will (and already have) travel to states like Massachusetts for care. Governor Baker signed an executive order on the same day that Dobbs was issued declaring that the state will not cooperate with extradition requests from other states pursing criminal charges against individuals who received, assisted with, or performed reproductive health services that are legal in Massachusetts. It further prohibits state government agencies from assisting another state’s investigation into a person or entity for receiving or delivering reproductive health services that are legal in Massachusetts. Finally, the EO protects providers from losing their professional licenses or receiving other professional discipline based on potential out of state charges.

As of June 24, 2022, a group of 86 prosecutors across the country signed on to a joint statement stating that they would “decline to use our offices’ resources to criminalize reproductive health decisions and commit to exercise our well-settled discretion and refrain from prosecuting those who seek, provide, or support abortions.”

The following MA prosecutors signed the letter:

  • Maura Healy, Attorney General
  • Andrea Harrington, Berkshire County
  • Michael W. Morrissey, Norfolk County
  • Marian Ryan, Middlesex County
  • David Sullivan, Northwestern

The following MA prosecutors did not sign on:

  • Kevin Hayden, Suffolk County (Boston)
  • Thomas Quinn, Bristol County
  • Jonathan W. Blodgett, Essex County
  • Timothy Cruz, Plymouth County
  • Michael O’Keefe, Cape & Islands
  • Anthony Gulluni, Hampden County
  • Joseph Early, Worcester County

For Massachusetts residents looking to provide support for individuals traveling to Massachusetts for care, do not offer your assistance on social media, Craigslist or other public listings. You could be putting yourself and the people you are trying to help in danger. Connect with an established abortion fund or network and work with people who know how to provide assistance in a safe and secure manner. You can find local abortion funds and networks through the National Network of Abortion Funds web site. People from out of state seeking care in Massachusetts should not respond to these unverified offers of support and accommodations because they may not be coming from good people looking to help. A person in need of assistance can contact the National Abortion Hotline or an established abortion network/fund for direction.

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