Leaders and advocates continue fight for abortion rights
BOSTON — Over 220 women’s health advocates from across the state gathered at the State House today, one week before the 40th Anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Roe v Wade that made abortion legal in the United States. The packed room heard from a nationally regarded women’s health policy expert and key legislative allies. Advocates from across the state then met with their legislators to lobby for pro-women’s health bills filed last week.
Regarded as a celebration and kick-off to the new legislative session, the event began with a legislative breakfast and program featuring keynote speaker Paula Johnson, MD, MPH, renowned women’s health policy expert and Executive Director of the Connors Center for Women's Health and Gender Biology and Chief of the Division of Women's Health at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. In 2011, Dr. Johnson served as a member of the Institute of Medicine’s panel on preventive services that concluded that birth control and other key women’s health screenings and treatment should be included in the list of preventive services that would be available without co-pays under health care reform.
“The 40th anniversary of Roe v Wade is a time to celebrate and to renew our commitment to women’s health and reproductive choice,” said Johnson. “In the years since Roe, this country has seen major advances in women’s health and equality. But we have also seen significant erosions to the rights guaranteed by Roe, erosions that impact individual and public health.”
The speaking program also featured three State House champions for women’s health – Senate President Therese Murray, Senator Katherine Clark and Representative Ellen Story – along with Megan Amundson, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, and Nonnie S. Burnes, Board Chair and Interim CEO of Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts.
After the legislative breakfast, advocates met with their representatives and senators in a total of 46 meetings and asked them to take on a leadership role on women’s health and co-sponsor some key pieces of legislation.
The advocates’ legislative priorities include a bill that would set standards for comprehensive sexuality education curriculums (HD 360, SD 34) and a bill to increase a young woman’s options for seeking counseling when making a decision about her pregnancy (HD 218, SD 35).
Although these issues are not new and have languished at the State House year after year, women’s health played a defining role in the November elections and propelled women’s health champions into office in Massachusetts and across the country. Advocates are looking to build on that momentum and persuade the legislature to pass smart public health policies.
“Abortion access is legal, constitutionally protected, and consistently supported by a majority of Americans,” said Nonnie S. Burnes, Board Chair and Interim CEO at Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts. “Hopefully, the results of the 2012 elections have shown our state legislature that now is the time for Massachusetts to lead the country by example and champion women’s health this legislative session.”
“Forty years after Roe v. Wade, women’s access to health care and abortion services is under unprecedented attack nationally and by state governments across the country – even here in Massachusetts we are battling legislation that would take away women’s access to basic health care,” said Megan Amundson, Executive Director for NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts. “It was important for legislators to hear from their constituents today about how medical decisions should be made by women in consultation with their doctors, not legislators.”
“The huge number of men and women that came to the State House today signaled to legislators that women in Massachusetts demand reproductive justice; they demand the respect and support of their society,” said Ellie Adair, Policy and Operations Manager, Massachusetts Chapter of the National Organization for Women. "We are still fighting to ensure that those who choose to have an abortion can do so free of shame and unnecessary government interference.”
The Roe v Wade 40th Anniversary event was co-sponsored by:
• American Association of University Women of Massachusetts
• American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts
• Asian American Women’s Political Initiative
• Ibis Reproductive Health
• Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action
• Massachusetts Chapter of the National Organization of Women
• Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women
• Massachusetts Family Planning Association
• Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus
• NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts
• Our Bodies, Ourselves
• Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts
• Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
• Women’s Bar Association of Massachusetts
Media Relations Coordinator
January 14, 2013