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Massachusetts law about abortion

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

Table of Contents

Massachusetts laws

Primary Laws

Additional Laws

  • St. 2019, c.6 § 2A Funding to alleviate the lack of federal funding for family planning
  • 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 § 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 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

18 USC § 248 Freedom of access to clinic entrances

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

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


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

Roe v. Wade , 410 U.S. 113 (1973) 
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, 592 U. S. __ (January 12, 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, 591 U.S. __ , 140 S.Ct. 2013 (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, 585 US __ (June 26, 2018) 138 S. Ct. 2361
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)
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, 594 U. S. ____ (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, 2018, 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 TelAbortion Study
This is an FDA-approved project that provides abortion medication to qualified women in selected states, including Massachusetts, via telehealth. The FDA currently requires women to go in person for abortion medication, so this is a medical study to see if it is safe and effective for the medication to be provided via telehealth and the mail. 

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).

Massachusetts practice, vol. 2 (Family law and practice, 4th ed.), Thomson Reuters, 2013, Chapter 27.

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

National survey of state laws, Gale Group, 2019, chapter 22.

"The partial-birth abortion ban act of 2003," by Alex Gordon, 41 Harvard journal on legislation 501 (2004). 

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). 

Roe v. Wade : the abortion rights controversy in American history, N.E.H. Hull and Peter Charles Hoffer, University Press of Kansas, 2010.

Roe v. Wade: United States Supreme Court, Bo Schambelan, editor, Running Press, 1992.

West's encyclopedia of american law, West Group, 2004, vol.1, pp.10-21.



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Last updated: October 27, 2021