Massachusetts law about abortion

A compilation of laws, regulations, cases and web sources on abortion law.

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Table of Contents

Supreme Court ruling

We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled. The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision...

Massachusetts laws

Primary Laws

Additional Laws

  • St.2019, c.6 § 2A Funding to alleviate the lack of federal funding for family planning
  • MGL c.15A, § 46 Medication abortion readiness plans established by institutions of public higher education
  • MGL c.112, § 12I Right of refusal of medical staff
  • MGL c.112, § 12J Experimentation on fetuses prohibited
  • MGL c.112, § 12K Definitions
  • MGL c.112, § 12L Commonwealth or its subdivisions won't interfere with right to abortion under this chapter
  • MGL c.112, §12N 1/2 Independent treatment of circumstances permitting abortion at more than 24 weeks
  • MGL c.112, § 12O Abortion performed pursuant to Sec. 12N; protection of live birth and patient
  • MGL c.112, § 12P Restrictions on abortions performed under Sec. 12M or 12N; emergency excepted
  • MGL c.112, § 12Q Abortions performed under Sec. 12M or 12N, reporting
  • MGL c.112, § 12R Consent to abortion; form; persons less than 16 years of age
  • MGL c.266, § 120E1/2 Buffer zone; protesters may be required to move back to 25 feet away from the entrance if police determine they have "substantially impeded access to or departure from an entrance or driveway to a reproductive health care facility."
  • MGL c.272, § 21A Furnishing drugs, articles or information for prevention of pregnancy or conception
  • MGL c.272, § 21B No privately controlled hospital or other health facility shall be required to admit any patient for the purpose of performing an abortion

Massachusetts regulations

110 CMR 11.07 Consent to an abortion by a child in the care or custody of the Department of Children and Families

130 CMR 484 Abortions under MassHealth

Federal laws and executive orders

18 USC § 248 Freedom of access to clinic entrances

18 USC § 1461 Mailing obscene or crime-incenting matter
See also: Application of the Comstock Act to drugs that can be used for abortions from the US Attorney General's Office which states "Section 1461 of title 18 of the U.S. Code does not prohibit the mailing of certain drugs that can be used to perform abortions where the sender lacks the intent that the recipient of the drugs will use them unlawfully."

18 USC § 1531 Partial-birth abortion ban act of 2003

42 USC § 300a-6 Prohibition against funding programs using abortion as family planning method

42 USC § 300a-7 Sterilization or abortion

President Biden has signed an Executive Order Protecting Access to Reproductive Health Care Services, July 8th, 2022to protect access to reproductive services and to take some incremental steps to try to preserve access to abortion services after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

President Biden has signed an Executive Order on Securing Access to Reproductive and Other Healthcare Services, August 3rd, 2022, to protect the ability for people to access out-of-state abortions after the Supreme Court overturned Roe V. Wade. See also the EO's fact sheet.

Federal regulations

45 CFR Part 88 Protecting statutory conscience rights in health care, effective July 22, 2019
Allows health workers to refuse to perform or assist medical procedures,  like abortion, sterilization, or assisted suicide, if it violates their “conscience” or religion. It applies to health care institutions receiving federal funding.

Court rules

Superior Court Standing Order 1-21 Uniform procedures regarding petitions for abortion authorization under G.L. c.112, § 12R

Forms

Petition under G.L. c. 112, § 12R (Mary Moe petition)
Used to request a court order authorizing a doctor to perform an abortion on a minor under 16 without parental consent

Mary Moe confidential affidavit
Filed with the Mary Moe petition

Selected case law

Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, et al., 597 US __ (June 24, 2022)
"The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion; Roe and Casey are overruled; and the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives."

Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973) Overruled by Dobbs
The court held that a woman's constitutional right to privacy encompassed her decision to terminate a pregnancy. The right was not unrestricted as states have an interest in regulating abortions during the later stages of pregnancy.

Food and Drug Administration, et al. v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, et al. on Application for Stay, 141 S.Ct. 578 (2021)
In a short unsigned opinion, the court reinstated a requirement for patients to pick up a medical abortion pill in person. The in-person requirement had previously been lifted by a District Court decision due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Gonzales v. Carhart, 550 U.S. 124 (2007)
The Supreme Court upheld a federal law prohibiting so-called "partial birth" abortion.

June Medical Services, LLC v. Russo, 140 S.Ct. 2103 (2020)
A Louisiana law requiring all abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles, was ruled unconstitutional. 

McCullen v. Coakley, 573 U.S. 464 (2014)
The earlier Massachusetts abortion clinic buffer zone, MGL c.266, s.120E1/2, held unconstitutional. "The buffer zones burden substantially more speech than necessary to achieve the Commonwealth's asserted interests... Given the vital First Amendment interests at stake, it is not enough for Massachusetts simply to say that other approaches have not worked."

Moe v. Sec. of Admin. and Finance, 382 Mass. 629 (1981)
"A statutory restriction on the funding of abortions under the Massachusetts Medical Assistance Program ... impermissibly burdened a woman's right to decide whether or not to terminate a pregnancy by abortion in violation of the right to due process of law as guaranteed by the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights."

NIFLA v. Becerra, 138 S. Ct. 2361 (2018)
Under the First Amendment, religiously oriented "crisis pregnancy centers" which do not provide abortions, don't have to tell women about public programs providing access to free or low-cost abortion. It is also "likely" a violation of the First Amendment to require clinics that don't have a medical license to disclose that fact. 

Planned Parenthood of Massachusetts v. Attorney General, 424 Mass. 586 (1997)
Court held that statutory requirement that pregnant unmarried minor obtain consent of both parents before obtaining abortion violated due process clause.

Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992) Overruled by Dobbs
Pennsylvania abortion statute held valid for 24 hour informed consent, parental consent for minors, and record keeping requirements, but not for spousal notice under due process clause of Federal Constitution's 14th Amendment.

Stenberg v. Carhart, 530 U.S. 914 (2000)
"Nebraska statute that criminalized performance of any 'partial birth abortion' that was not necessary to save life of mother held to violate Federal Constitution."

Whole Woman’s Health et al. v. Austin Reeve Jackson, Judge, et al. On Application for Injunctive relief, 142 S.Ct. 522 (2021)
The Court denied an emergency appeal from abortion providers and others that sought to block enforcement of a new Texas law banning abortions after 6 weeks and allowing private citizens to bring lawsuits in state court against abortion providers or anyone involved in facilitating an abortion.

Web sources

Abortion: judicial history and legislative response, Congressional Research Service, 2022.

Abortion laws: Hyde amendment, Franklin County Law Library (Ohio).  
Includes links to history of the law that prohibits government funds being used for abortion.  Although the Hyde Amendment has not been codified, the language still shows up in various parts of the US Code.

HelpSteps.com, Mass. 2-1-1 service.
"HelpSteps connects individuals to local health and human resources... The assessment and referral tools are available at no cost to anyone with access to the internet or a smart phone." Click on Sexual Health & Testing for information about abortion services in Massachusetts.

The January 2023 REMS modification, U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Information regarding a recent FDA change that allows abortion pills to be sold at retail pharmacies in the United States.

ReproductiveRights.gov, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services.
Up-to-date information provided by HHS on access to and coverage of reproductive health care and resources.

Sexual and reproductive health service locations, Mass. Office of Sexual Health and Youth Development.
"Find clinics and healthcare providers in Massachusetts offering sexual and reproductive health services."

Warning about crisis pregnancy centers, Mass. Office of Sexual Health and Youth Development (7/12/22).

Print sources

American jurisprudence 2d, West Group, 2005 with supplement, vol. 1, "Abortion and Birth Control."

Arguments on abortion: live recording and transcripts of Supreme Court oral arguments on reproductive rights, Stephanie Guitton and Peter Irons, editors, New Press, 1995 (Book and audiocassettes).

Family law and practice, 4th ed. (Mass. practice, volume 2), Thomson Reuters, 2013 with supplements, Chapter 27.

Prima facie case, 5th ed. (Mass. practice, vol. 17B), West Group, 2005, section 53.17.

Representing the child client, by Michael J. Dale, et al., Lexis, loose-leaf, sec. 3.02[2][c].

"The right to choose, neutrality, and abortion consent in Massachusetts," by Daniel Avila, 38 Suffolk University law review 511 (2004).

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Last updated: January 11, 2023

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