The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated longstanding barriers to sexual and reproductive health care in Massachusetts at the same time an increasingly hostile national political environment threatened access to safe, legal abortion for people across the country. The Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts (PPAF) urgently responded to these threats and continued its vigorous campaign to improve equitable access to abortion care and cement Massachusetts’ role as a national leader in reproductive freedom.
Improving Access to Abortion
PPAF ramped up its campaign to pass the ROE Act, which would reform state laws to safeguard young people seeking abortion and dismantle unjust and medically unnecessary barriers that have prevented people in Massachusetts from getting abortion care in a timely manner – or at all. PPAF collaborated with influential partners and local leaders to demonstrate the need for improved abortion access. Mayors representing seventeen cities from across the state urged the state legislature to pass the ROE Act. Whether they represented Boston, Holyoke, New Bedford, or Lawrence, each mayor made clear that passing this legislation would promote the health, safety and economic security of every person in their communities and provide the support and care that people need to build healthy, fulfilling lives. For the first time, labor unions joined a concerted effort to support abortion rights in Massachusetts with six unions representing over 220,000 Massachusetts workers joining the ROE Act Coalition. The power of these strategic partnerships was fully evident in November 2019 when PPAF and more than 70 coalition partners led hundreds of supporters to the State House to lobby their legislators and urge them to support the ROE Act.
Advocating During a Pandemic
In March of 2020, PPAF’s unrelenting efforts to educate elected leaders about the importance of abortion access paid off when the Baker administration affirmed that abortion is essential health care, and therefore exempt from the state’s order to postpone elective medical procedures during the pandemic. As the state implemented social distancing measures, PPAF quickly adapted its advocacy strategies to maintain its efforts to educate the public and mobilize supporters. PPAF intensified its online presence, hosting live-streamed conversations with experts and partnering with other advocacy organizations to develop engaging social media programming. PPAF also hosted virtual activities and events, such as phone banks, meetings with lawmakers, and larger scale online gatherings to mobilize grassroots supporters. Thanks to these effective digital action plans, PPAF created urgency around the ROE Act and public pressure to pass the bill by the end of the year.
PPAF’s Speakers Bureau entered its fifth year with a well-trained cadre of patient volunteers who spoke publicly – to reporters, legislators, supporters, activists, and other audiences – about their personal experiences with sexual and reproductive health care. These stories, told in person and online, addressed the silence and stigma around reproductive health care, from STI testing to abortion, and illustrated how PPLM’s compassionate, nonjudgmental care improves patients’ lives. In central Massachusetts, volunteers participated in the Raíz Program, an initiative to build sustainable, community-organizing teams in mutual partnership with Latinx communities in order to break down barriers to health care. The Raíz program hosted video conversations with community leaders, art shows, and other activities underscoring the public’s support for comprehensive sex education.
“We are committed to advocate for programs and policies that support the health, wellbeing, and futures of all people – regardless of the threats we face nationally.”
Dr. Jennifer Childs-Roshak, PPAF president
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