Access to Mifepristone Is in Danger. In Massachusetts, Maura Healey Stockpiled a Year’s Supply.

Access to Mifepristone Is in Danger. In Massachusetts, Maura Healey Stockpiled a Year’s Supply.

The battle for reproductive freedom is being waged in the states. Republicans like to talk a big game about protecting freedom—except when it comes to a woman’s freedom to make her own health care decisions. In fact, it’s Democratic governors who are stepping up in the face of yet another extreme, dangerous court ruling to protect access to life-saving medical care.

In my state of Massachusetts, we believe that freedom means having the power to decide if and when to start a family. It means making personal health care decisions in consultation with your doctors and loves ones, not with politicians. It means having access to safe, effective medication when you need it, letting providers and pharmacists do their jobs and deliver the care that’s best for their patients, and listening to science and medical expertise.

These values drove my administration to take action over the past few weeks in anticipation of a court ruling from an extremist, Trump-appointed federal judge in Texas that we were sure was going to gut access to the medication abortion drug mifepristone. After all, the plaintiffs in the case handpicked this judge because they were confident that he would ignore their lack of medically sound evidence and make a ruling that was rooted in his radical political views instead of listening to science and following the law.

We asked ourselves what we could do as a state to protect people’s reproductive freedom here in Massachusetts. We were ready with a plan of action when the ruling came down on a Friday evening of a holiday weekend.

This is an attempt to punish, shame, and marginalize women.

In early April, we asked the University of Massachusetts to help us make sure that, no matter what happened, mifepristone would stay available in Massachusetts. UMass already had the necessary certifications to purchase mifepristone because they dispense it through their university health system and they were ready and willing to help. They agreed to purchase 15,000 doses of mifepristone, well over a year’s supply, and made the order within a matter of days. The medication was already on its way when the judge’s ruling came down on the evening of April 7.

At the same time, our team started reaching out to other health care providers across the state, making them aware of the impending ruling and asking them to get out ahead of it and purchase their own supplies of mifepristone. And we have made $1 million available in funding to support providers who are contracted with our Department of Public Health with purchasing doses.

We also got to work preparing an executive order to protect patients and providers. Last year, in the wake of the Dobbs decision, legislators, advocates from the Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts, Reproductive Equity Now and the ACLU of Massachusetts, and the public health community in Massachusetts jumped into action to pass a Shield Law to protect patients and providers from civil or criminal liability for accessing or performing an abortion. Our executive order confirms that those protections continue to extend to medication abortion—and mifepristone specifically. This will ensure that providers, including pharmacists, can continue to stock and dispense mifepristone and will protect providers and patients from consequences for accessing this essential care in Massachusetts. Importantly, providers’ professional licenses will be protected, so they won’t risk losing it for doing their jobs and providing the best care to their patients.

Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley speaks at a Boston press conference for mifepristone access alongside Healey.

Joshua Qualls/Governor’s Press Office

With these steps, we were ready when the judge ruled in an attempt to block access to mifepristone. The ruling is paused for seven days to allow for the government to appeal, which they have. But when it goes into effect, it could ban mifepristone nationwide, even in states like Massachusetts where abortion is legal. That would have devastating consequences for women’s health care, particularly those who already face severe health disparities and barriers to accessing care – people of color, low-income people, immigrants, the LGBTQ+ community and young people.

Medication abortion is used in nearly half of abortions performed in Massachusetts. Mifepristone is the gold standard and part of the most effective regimen for medication abortion. It has been a safe, effective, FDA-approved medication for more than 20 years, and it’s also used for miscarriage management, to treat lupus, and to reduce the risk of ulcers, among many other medical uses. This political intervention into basic medical care hurts women at what can be a difficult and heartbreaking time, putting those experiencing pregnancy loss through greater discomfort and, in some cases, threatening their lives. It harms patients, undermines medical expertise and public health, and takes away freedom.

This is an attempt to punish, shame, and marginalize women. It’s terrible and unnecessary—and it sets a dangerous precedent. Never before has a court tried to turn back the clock on such a well-established, FDA-approved medication. And we’re not going to stand for it.

The action that my administration took will ensure that abortion remains safe, legal, and accessible in Massachusetts. That includes mifepristone. While people’s rights are under attack across the country, in Massachusetts, we are standing for civil rights, equality, and freedom. We will always protect access to reproductive health care, including medication abortion. We have our providers, pharmacists, and patients’ backs. We are going to continue to lead the way forward and remain a beacon for freedom and access to care in this country.

Headshot of Governor Maura Healey

Governor of Massachusetts

Maura Healey is the first woman elected Governor of Massachusetts. She was previously the state’s Attorney General. 

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