MaryRose Mazzola, attorney and director of Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts' ASPIRE Center for Sexual and Reproductive Health, gave a presentation, “Abortion Rights and the Law: What Now?” April 11.
She discussed abortion rights after the overturning of Roe v. Wade and potential restrictions on medicated abortion.
Roe v. Wade was a 1973 Supreme Court ruling that protected women's freedom to choose to have an abortion, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights’ website.
“In Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade, and held that abortion is no longer a fundamental constitutional right under the substantive due process clause to the U.S. Constitution,” according to the Center for Reproductive Rights’ website.
Mazzola said substantive due process clauses provide that the government can’t interfere with a person’s fundamental rights, such as marriage, family relations, custody, contraception, privacy, the right to interstate travel, and the right to vote.
Mazzola said in Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruled that abortion is protected because of a fundamental right to privacy. In the Dobbs decision, the Supreme Court ruled that “abortion is not a constitutional right. It's not a fundamental right. That privacy was never meant to cover abortion.”
There are two different types of abortion medication - mifepristone and misoprostol. Mifepristone is preferred among doctors because misoprostol can cause “pain” during the process, she said.
Mazzola said currently, some states are trying to limit access to mifepristone.
Mifepristone is an FDA-approved medication used to terminate pregnancies that are fewer than 10 weeks along, according to the Planned Parenthood website.
After COVID-19, the FDA made the drug more accessible to everyone. People were able to have it mailed to their homes or pick it up at a pharmacy without needing to go to a doctor's office to take the medication, Mazzola said.
She said Texas U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk ruled that,“If you're sending it by mail, you don't know if people are taking it safely.”
In the ruling, the judge found that the FDA’’s approval of mifepristone in 2000 was not valid and suggested it be pulled from the market, according to The New York Times.
Mazzola said individuals can get abortion pills if they are in the state of Massachusetts, “so you can drive across the border and be in Massachusetts in a parking lot on your phone but you have to be in Massachusetts.
“So I say don't scare people - abortion medication will always be available in Massachusetts. It's just getting a lot harder,” Mazzola said.
She said misoprostol is still available to buy and administer.
Mazzola said the Texas Heartbeat Bill (SB8) is a law in Texas forbidding abortion after a heartbeat is found, which is at a six-week mark.
She said Texas also criminalized people who were helping others obtain abortions, such as a person who drove them to their appointment, a doctor who undertook the procedure, or someone who answered questions about it.
If a third party saw someone helping a person obtaining an abortion, they could be sued for up to $10,000 and this money would come from the person who helped, Mazzola said.
This bill forced medical institutions to stop providing abortions and if a doctor chooses to anyway, even due to a medical emergency, they could face up to 100 years in jail, she said.
“So in Massachusetts, we have a shield law that was signed into law by Governor Baker last year that says basically, in theory, that our doctors are protected from outside suits. However, the way the health care law works is the law that is on the ground in the state you're in when you receive the health care is the applicable law,” she said.
Referring to her position at Planned Parenthood, Mazzola said, “Obviously it’s my work. I'm pro-choice. I'm pro-abortion. I think it's healthcare - whatever you want. Not everyone feels that way, especially in Texas,” she said.
Mazzola said the loss of access to abortion means some other very important rights may be taken away, such as the right to same-sex marriage and interracial marriage.
She said those rights may be at risk as they derive from substantive due process clauses.
Mazzola said she encourages people to donate to pro-choice organizations in Texas through Abortionfunds.org.