- Department of Public Health
The Department of Public Health (DPH) is committed to comprehensive reproductive health care access. In the wake of recent complaints regarding several anti-abortion centers, DPH has initiated a review of its statutory and regulatory obligations. The purpose of this review is to make sure DPH professional licensees and facility licensees – including these centers – are adhering to their designated scope of practice and operating transparently and free from deceptive practices.
Our goal is to strengthen the integrity of the health care system in the state and foster an environment of trust and compassion for those who are navigating the many options available to them at a challenging and time-sensitive point in their lives.
DPH jurisdiction over anti-abortion centers
Anti-abortion centers – often called “crisis pregnancy centers” – provide information and counseling to individuals who are, or may be, pregnant. Some provide testing for sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy tests, and ultrasounds to determine how far along a pregnancy may be. Many of these centers advertise themselves as full-service reproductive health care clinics, yet they do not provide abortion care or abortion referrals, contraception, or other important reproductive health care services. Most centers are affiliated with national advocacy or religious organizations that provide funding and support to advance an anti-abortion agenda.
In Massachusetts, there are nearly 30 anti-abortion centers that operate in the state, with only four currently subject to DPH licensure under state law.
- Licensed clinics must comply with the requirements and standards of medical care and services associated with this certification.
- Licensed clinics usually are staffed with full- or part-time medical providers that may include physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, or physician assistants.
- These licensed facilities may provide medical services, including testing and ultrasound, as long as the service delivered is within the scope of practice for the involved provider.
- The clinicians in licensed centers bear a responsibility to adhere to all license requirements and meet the professional standards to ensure the well-being of those seeking care and support.
Most centers in Massachusetts, however, are not licensed as “clinics.” These non-licensed centers are largely staffed by nonmedical individuals or volunteers. Absent the provision of medical care, DPH does not have jurisdiction over these facilities and cannot oversee the quality of services they provide.
However, if these facilities are providing medical care or advertising services that are consistent with a clinic, DPH maintains a responsibility to oversee the safe provision of medical services and health care in the state. DPH may be involved in investigating complaints regarding allegations about provision of inappropriate medical services or staff members performing services without the required credentials. This work may be done in collaboration with the Attorney General’s Office’s Reproductive Justice Unit.
Guidance for Massachusetts licensed physicians, physician assistants, nurses, pharmacists, pharmacies, hospitals, and clinics: Reminder to Licensees Regarding Licensure Obligations and Providing Standard of Care PDF | Doc
The Department of Public Health actively seeks feedback and complaints from individuals who have had concerning experiences with anti-abortion centers as well as from other stakeholders who have information about questionable practices. Complaints about staff can be filed with:
- Board of Registration in Medicine for physician concerns
- Board of Registration in Nursing for nurse concerns
- Board of Registration of Physician Assistants for physician assistant concerns
- Office of the Attorney General for concerns about potential deceptive practices or misleading information that affects consumers
In addition to DPH’s work on the licensing and regulatory aspects of these anti-abortion centers, the Department is also focused on educating the public about the differences between facilities that provide comprehensive reproductive care and those that practice deceptive tactics to limit people’s choices and prevent abortions. DPH will increase its efforts to educate the public through a multi-faceted awareness campaign in 2024.