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Massachusetts lawmakers look at abortion, gun laws before end of legislative session

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey at a press conference.
Chris Van Buskirk
State House News Service
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey at a press conference.

After the Supreme Court Friday overturned Roe v. Wade and the constitutional right to an abortion, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker quickly issued an executive order. Abortion remains legal in Massachusetts, but Baker's order was designed to protect providers who serve people from other states. Matt Murphy of the State House News Service explains Baker's executive order.

Matt Murphy, State House News Service: The governor obviously prepared for this ruling to come down as it has been expected and very quickly signed this executive order. It protects, as you said, providers who may provide care to patients coming in from out of state, from states where there may be laws, perhaps new laws on the books, restricting access to abortion or making it illegal. This would prevent them from suffering any professional penalties and potentially shielding them from some lawsuits.

This executive order would also prohibit state agencies from helping other states with investigations into patients or providers who seek care that is legal in Massachusetts and also prevent extradition to those states should anyone face charges. A lot of these steps are similar to what we saw the Senate folding into the state budget.

I would expect that if those pieces do not make it in the state budget, we may see the Legislature pass a standalone bill. The House speaker, Ron Mariano, has said he may favor doing a broader package.

I think they're still looking at and reviewing whether or not there's anything more that can or should be done in Massachusetts, where they have already codified the right to an abortion into state law during the previous session.

Karen Brown, NEPM: Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey became the de facto Democratic nominee for governor last week as state Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz dropped out of the race. Healey called Friday a dark day in our history. After the Supreme Court's decision, the Republican front runner for governor, Geoff Diehl, says he supports the court's decision. How do you see the issue of abortion rights playing out this campaign season?

I think this is still going to be an issue. You saw the Attorney General get out there, out in front of this on Friday, talking about how she was going to enforce laws and fight to protect women's rights, to access to abortion here in Massachusetts, but also the rights of patients who may come here seeking an abortion.

I think you're also likely to see a lot of talk spring up if it doesn't happen this session, perhaps looking ahead to the next session when the next governor will be in place, around medication abortion. That is pills that can be provided. Some see it as an easier way to help women from out of state who may need care. It's also a way to potentially deal with the influx of patients and whether or not the centers here in Massachusetts that provide this care can handle the volume.

There is legislation at the State House that would require access to medication abortion on college campuses. And that is going to be talked about a lot in the coming weeks, before the end of July, and perhaps even longer, on the campaign trail and moving into next session, depending on what gets done.

So, the Supreme Court also last week determined that states cannot require gun owners to demonstrate special need to carry their weapon outside the home. That was a New York case, but it could have implications in Massachusetts. Who is going to lead the charge to determine if Massachusetts laws need updating?

Yes, they’re certainly combing through this decision now to see how exactly it affects Massachusetts laws. We've seen some experts say because of the discretion that Massachusetts affords police chiefs in awarding these concealed carry permits, they expect that if anyone were to be denied and challenged in federal court, they could see that overturned.

Rep. David Linsky, a Natick Democrat, has long been a champion for gun control in the House. I would expect him, as well as State Rep. Marjorie Decker from Cambridge, to be leading this push in the House, as they look at these laws. And I think you're going to see to the extent that they can tighten the language around concealed carry permits, they may look to do it.

You may also see them try to take other steps, such as cracking down on the so-called ghost guns, these homemade guns that are pretty much untraceable. There are advocates pushing for that, as well as taking a look at, in light of this ruling, whether or not they can expand the list of public places where a gun could not be carried with concealed a permit.

Already, you can't carry them in schools, but could they expand it to public parks, polling places, places of worship, other places like that to limit the spaces where you can be and know that someone is potentially carrying a gun. These are all areas that I expect them to explore in the coming weeks.

Carrie Healy hosts the local broadcast of "Morning Edition" at NEPM. She also hosts the station’s weekly government and politics segment “Beacon Hill In 5” for broadcast radio and podcast syndication.
Karen Brown is a radio and print journalist who focuses on health care, mental health, children’s issues, and other topics about the human condition. She has been a full-time radio reporter for NEPM since 1998.
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