Mass. Senate moves to protect abortion providers from out-of-state court judgments and investigations
Massachusetts abortion providers and anyone who assists with an abortion would have more protection from out-of-state lawsuits and investigations under a budget amendment approved by the state senate this week.
The proposed changes would make it more difficult to recover a fine imposed by a Texas court, for example, filing a subpoena from outside Massachusetts and would protect provider licenses and insurance rates from the Impact of Out-of-State Judgments.
The protections would also apply to anyone caring for or assisting transgender patients.
State Senate Democrats have touted the measures as a bulwark against state laws across the country that seek to ban abortion. State Sen. Cindy Friedman of Arlington said Massachusetts must not let providers here become targets for residents trying to enforce abortion limits in Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri or other states. other states.
“Massachusetts needs to be ready and proactive so that if someone from another state sues someone in our state for providing lawful health care, we have the tools in place to protect them,” Friedman said. “It’s outrageous to me that it’s legal to have bounty hunting provisions.”
No senator spoke against the proposal during Wednesday’s debate.
Physicians, physician assistants, pharmacists, nurses, psychologists and social workers would all be immune to the consequences of licensing and increased medical malpractice insurance costs due to of lawsuits filed against them in other states.
Massachusetts courts would be prohibited from ordering anyone in the state to testify or produce documents for lawsuits involving abortion or transgender care, and judges could not issue a subpoena in a case involving such services. health care unless the alleged violation violates a Bay State law.
Out-of-state residents suing a Massachusetts provider would have to persuade an out-of-state judge that he or she has jurisdiction over an abortion performed in Massachusetts. If the out-of-state resident wins, they will have to come to Massachusetts to make the same argument in Bay State court.
The Senate’s proposal follows efforts Connecticut, California and Michigan to isolate abortion activity and providers within state lines. Jessie Rossman, managing attorney for the ACLU of Massachusetts, said the legal efforts make sense, especially as the Supreme Court appears poised to overturn Roe, the landmark ruling that provides a constitutional right to put termination of a pregnancy. .
“There are many things that I would have thought were far away if you had asked me two or three years ago,” she said, “that we have seen become a reality as more and more States hostile to this type of critical medical care pass laws that attempt to interfere with access to such care.
The Chamber did not contemplate a similar set of protections. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker typically doesn’t comment on legislation until it reaches his desk.
Mass Senate language does not go as far as Connecticut in an effort to avoid violating the Full Faith and Credit clause of the US Constitution.
This clause states that each state must recognize the decisions of the courts of other states. Friedman said she believed the Senate measure did not conflict with that constitutional requirement, but was intended to make it more difficult to enforce out-of-state judgments in Massachusetts.
Some legal scholars say Massachusetts is wading through complex and murky territory. State efforts to protect providers and residents in states with strong abortion protections could trigger a whole new wave of abortion-related litigation.
“A lot of these issues will have to be decided in court,” said Dwight Duncan, who teaches constitutional law at the University of Massachusetts Law School. “I don’t think the constitutionality of this bill is a simple question.”
Duncan, who is also an adviser for Massachusetts Citizens for Life, noted a section of the Senate amendment which states that the governor of Massachusetts cannot extradite a person charged with a crime out of state unless that act is also illegal in Massachusetts. He said it was unclear whether the governor had the authority to refuse this extradition request.
The Senate amendment was drafted in cooperation with abortion providers who cheered its passage.
“Now is the time to use all legislative tools to protect and expand access to reproductive health care in Massachusetts,” said Dr. Nate Horwitz-Willis, executive director of the Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts in a statement. , “which will be essential to ensure reproductive freedom in a post-Roe world.”
With reporting by State House News Service reporter Chris Lisinski