Mass. House budget includes abortion funding | News

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BOSTON — House Democrats have reignited a battle on Beacon Hill over women’s reproductive rights with a provision in the state budget to expand abortion access.

Tucked into the $49.7 billion spending package for the fiscal year that begins July 1, which was approved by the House of Representatives Wednesday night, is an amendment calling on the state to spend $500,000 to expand abortion access.

The money, which would be devoted to “improving reproductive health care access, infrastructure and security,” would be distributed in state grants to the Jane Fund of Central Massachusetts, the Abortion Rights Fund of Western Massachusetts and the Eastern Massachusetts Abortion Fund, under the amendment.

The measure, sponsored by state Rep. Thomas Stanley, D-Waltham, and several other Democrats, was included in a “consolidated” bundle of amendments that were hammered out by House Democratic leaders in closed-door meetings.

Supporters of the additional funding for reproductive health centers argue that Massachusetts is going to become a haven for women from states that are moving to restrict access to the procedure. Those concerns come ahead of an anticipated U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Roe V. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion.

“As anti-choice states across the country look to eliminate access to abortion care, Massachusetts remains a beacon for reproductive freedom,” said Rebecca Hart Holder, executive director of Reproductive Equity Now. “This funding is an essential first step to securing access to abortion care for each and every Bay Stater that wants it.”

But conservative groups, such as the Massachusetts Family Institute, argue that the state’s taxpayers shouldn’t be funding abortions. They worry the increased spending will encourage women from across the country to come to Massachusetts to get the procedure.

“It’s outrageous — we’re already one of the highest abortion states in the nation. This will only make the problem worse,” said Andrew Beckwith, MFI’s executive director. “How many more dead babies do the politicians on Beacon Hill want? They’re creating a culture of death.”

Pat Stewart, executive director of Massachusetts Citizens for Life, said the expenditure sets a “dangerous precedent” and that her group plans to explore a legal challenge against it.

“These funds would be better used to actually help mothers care for their babies, instead of ending their lives,” she said. “Massachusetts taxpayers do not support having their taxes used to finance abortion. Legislators will be held to account for this gross misuse of tax dollars.”

If the proposal survives the budget process, supporters say this would be the first time that budget funds were used to expand abortion access in the state.

It’s not clear if Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican who supports abortion rights, would sign off on the budget earmark if it reaches his desk.

The thorny issue of taxpayer funding for abortions has frequently flared up on Beacon Hill over the years, most recently in 2019 when democratic lawmakers sought to provide state funding for women’s reproductive centers that were expected to lose funding under changes to the federal Title X grant program.

Massachusetts is one of 17 states where public money is used to fund abortions and other reproductive services for low-income women. Abortion providers are reimbursed through Medicaid payments, but it’s not clear how much the state spends on them.

A 1981 Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling holds that because the state provides medical coverage through its Medicaid programs to eligible women for births and other reproductive services, it must also provide coverage for abortions.

The state also gets federal funding for women’s reproductive services and expects to receive more than $8.5 million through the Title X program in the current fiscal year, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Massachusetts has some of the widest protections for abortion in the nation, which is making the state a destination for women from New Hampshire and other states that are tightening their laws.

In 2020, Democrats who control the state Legislature pushed through a new law that codified a woman’s right to get an abortion. The move was in response to changes in the makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court that gave it a conservative majority.

The so-called ROE Act prohibits the state from interfering with a “person’s personal decision” to get an abortion, allows 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.

Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites. Email him at

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