Reproductive Equity Now believes all 351 Massachusetts cities and towns can strive to strengthen access to abortion and other reproductive care services in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
The organization released a toolkit Wednesday, which offers localized approaches even as abortion remains enshrined in the state constitution — and as the Massachusetts Legislature this summer passed stronger protections for abortion providers and patients, including those who come to the commonwealth from states where the procedure is now outlawed.
“This unprecedented health care crisis demands an unwavering, whole-of-government response from Congress to state houses to city halls across the country. As health care and reproductive freedom are under attack nationally, municipal leaders can play an enormous role in expanding access to the full spectrum of reproductive health care,” Rebecca Hart Holder, president of Reproductive Equity Now, said in a statement Wednesday morning. “Our goal in launching the Win & Deliver Toolkit is to give city and town leaders the tools, resources, and information they need to pass bold policies to improve access to care for each of their residents.”
It comes replete with sample ordinances and resolutions that municipalities can customize as they double down on reproductive equity initiatives.
Mirroring the new state law, the Win and Deliver Toolkit recommends that Massachusetts municipalities take a stance against becoming involved in “hostile out-of-state litigation against providers,” including those offering abortion and gender-affirming care.
Salem already has that type of ordinance in place, according to Reproductive Equity Now, which blocks city employees, contractors and other parties that have received municipal funds from providing information or helping with an investigation tied to legally protected health care in the commonwealth.
Municipalities can promote medication abortion access, such as by launching a public awareness campaign, and urge private colleges in their towns and cities to expand medication abortion on campus, the toolkit recommends.
Other public awareness campaigns could alert residents about the statewide emergency contraceptive standing order and about deceptive crisis pregnancy centers masquerading as legitimate abortion providers. Crisis pregnancy centers, which Reproductive Equity Now notes are often unlicensed facilities, currently outnumber actual clinics on a 3-1 ratio.
There could also be multilingual efforts from municipalities to ensure vulnerable residents, such as low-income or immigrant communities, understand the status of reproductive care in Massachusetts.
In another communication tactic, municipalities could host public forums on maternal health, allowing residents to hear directly from doulas, midwives, abortion providers and other experts.
The toolkit states municipalities could appropriate money to nearby abortion funds, plus invest in vending machines that provide over-the-counter emergency contraception.
“This idea is growing in popularity on college campuses and in cities across the state, often spearheaded by college student organizers eager to make emergency contraception more affordable and accessible to young people where they spend their time—in student centers, public buildings, and appropriate centralized locations downtown,” the toolkit states.
Similarly, municipalities could fund free menstrual products in public restrooms, such as schools and libraries, Reproductive Equity Now suggests.
Additional policy recommendation include expanding municipal paid leave — potentially by covering pregnancy loss — and updating local charters or bylaws to incorporate gender-inclusive language.
In a far-reaching maneuver, municipalities can also throw their support behind legislation on Beacon Hill to achieve “affordable and equitable access to child care.” Somerville advanced the concept by investing directly in child care, Reproductive Equity Now pointed out.
“Reproductive equity is not only the ability to decide if and when to start or grow a family,” the toolkit states. “It’s also about ensuring that when you do decide to become a parent, you can raise a family in a safe and healthy environment without breaking the bank on child care. Robust child care access means healthy futures for all children but right now, Massachusetts families are paying exorbitant prices for child care (the second highest in the country!).”