Abortion and gender-affirming care providers welcome Senate decision to offer protection from out-of-state lawsuits

Massachusetts healthcare professionals who provide abortion and gender-affirming care applaud a state Senate decision to protect them and their patients from out-of-state lawsuits .

The Supreme Court seems likely to overturn Roe vs. Wadewhich established the constitutional right to abortion, states such as Texas and Oklahoma have enacted laws that would allow lawsuits against people who have abortions, as well as clinics that provide this care.

These laws also target transgender people seeking gender-affirming care, as well as the healthcare providers who treat them.

In a budget amendment passed Wednesday, the state Senate provided a range of protections for health care providers and patients in Massachusetts from actions outside the state. These include prohibiting the extradition of patients or providers to states where they face prosecution, preventing state law enforcement from assisting in such investigations, and protecting healthcare professionals from threats to their medical licenses.

“I am so grateful that Massachusetts is so proactive in protecting providers like me by allowing us to provide safe and legal abortion care,” said Dr. Luu Ireland, an OBGYN practitioner and abortion provider at UMass. Memorial Medical Center and Planned Parenthood.

“When I’m with a patient, my only goal is to take care of the person in front of me, hear their story, and figure out how I can provide them with the medical care they need and deserve,” said Ireland at GBH News. “And the last thing I want to have to consider is where it came from and the legal implications, as I provide safe and legal medical care in the state of Massachusetts.”

Ireland said it was happy to see the Senate amendment protect providers from the ramifications of their medical licenses.

“I work very hard to be a good doctor and maintain a good clinical reputation,” she said. “And the idea that all of that might be sacrificed in providing legal abortion care in my home state because of what Texas or Oklahoma thinks I should or shouldn’t be doing to their citizens is truly frustrating and infuriating.”

“We’re in uncharted territory here,” said Rebecca Hart Holder, executive director of local reproductive rights group Reproductive Equity Now. “It should be, on its face, unconstitutional that anyone in a state like Missouri or Texas can sue a provider of lawful care provided here in the Commonwealth. But we just don’t know what the court is going to do.”

Hart Holder said she believes the wording of the Senate amendment would have a deterrent effect on out-of-state lawsuits because it would provide standing for counter-suits.

The Senate amendment was also applauded by medical professionals who provide gender-affirming care to transgender patients.

“I am thrilled that in Massachusetts, our Senate stood up for frontline workers and providers to ensure they could protect the incredibly important work we do for LGBTQ+ patients,” said Steve Kerrigan, President and CEO of Edward M. Kennedy Community Health. Center, which runs community practices that provide transgender health care in Worcester, Framingham and Milford.

“We stand ready to care for patients from anywhere in the country who feel threatened and whose rights are in jeopardy regarding gender-affirming care and appropriate care for our LGBTQ+ friends and family,” said Kerrigan. “To me, no one in Mississippi or Alabama or anywhere else has the right to say what kind of care we provide to the patients we serve. They shouldn’t have the right to sue our providers for providing care.”

The Senate budget amendment will be negotiated with the House and could land on the governor’s desk in the coming weeks.

Kerrigan is hopeful the amendment will become law.

“The Senate did the right thing,” he said. “I believe the House of Representatives and the President will do the right thing. And I have every confidence in the world that Governor Baker will sign these protections into law because he understands that the people of Massachusetts should not have the work they do dictated by people in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia or anywhere else.”

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