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February 1, 2023

AG Campbell helps roll out abortion hotline

Photo | Lauryn Allen A rally outside the Massachusetts State House following the leak of the Dobbs decision.

A new hotline went live Monday morning to offer free and confidential legal advice to patients seeking reproductive and abortion care in Massachusetts, including those who do not live in the state.

The Reproductive Equity Now Foundation launched the hotline with the state attorney general, the Women's Bar Foundation, the ACLU of Massachusetts and five big-name law firms offering pro-bono legal advice.

During a press conference in her office with some of Massachusetts' most powerful woman political leaders, Attorney General Andrea Campbell promoted the Abortion Legal Hotline. Reproductive rights were a major part of Campbell's campaign, and she has promised to create a cross-bureau reproductive justice unit in her office.

The hotline received seed money from The Boston Foundation and operations are funded by nonprofit Reproductive Equity Now, with no state funding going toward the service.

The push toward expanding abortion care comes in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision in Dobbs v. Jackson last June to overturn the constitutional right to an abortion.

"One of the results of the Dobbs decision has been misinformation, misinformation about which services are legal, deception about where to receive health care services, lies intended to discourage women from accessing basic reproductive care," U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren said at the press conference. "With this hotline, Massachusetts is fighting back against misinformation, deception, and outright lies."

After the Dobbs decision, Massachusetts passed a law designed to protect providers and patients who receive abortions in Massachusetts from criminal prosecution from extraterritorial jurisdiction in other states.

"We have been preparing for passage of these draconian, anti-abortion, anti-science laws by ensuring that clinicians in the commonwealth can continue to provide loving and compassionate care, and patients seeking that care in Massachusetts can access it," said Reproductive Equity Now President Rebecca Hart Holder. "So here's the bottom line: today abortion remains legal in Massachusetts and no anti-abortion extremists should be able to reach across our borders and challenge that."

Warren said the hotline "ensures that both health care providers and patients can confidently go to one centralized place for free to learn about the protections afforded to them under the law."

Since Texas passed a law banning abortions past six weeks of pregnancy in September 2021, people have come to Massachusetts seeking the procedure, Hart Holder said. The influx of out-of-state patients has increased since the Dobbs decision, she said.

"As soon as we passed the shield law we started getting questions from providers: what can we do? How can we be safe? Will I get arrested? What's going to happen to my home if I get sued? So this is in response to very real patient and provider questions," Hart Holder said.

When a provider or patient calls the hotline with a legal question, coordinators from Reproductive Equity Now and the Women's Bar Foundation will connect callers with attorneys from the ACLU of Massachusetts, Foley Hoag LLP, Goodwin Procter, Goulston & Storrs PC, Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky & Popeo, or Ropes & Gray LLP.

"The hotline, of course, is just one step in the right direction to make sure folks know about their rights and have access to these critical health care services," Campbell said.

She added that creating the promised reproductive justice unit in her office is "at the top of the list."

"One thing I believe in is we campaigned on a lot of things, and everyone up here would agree, and now it's about delivering those promises to our voters," Campbell said.

Former state Attorney General Martha Coakley, speaking on behalf of the five firms involved in the hotline as co-chair of the state attorney general practice at Foley Hoag, said the program would help "level the playing field" for women in Massachusetts and outside the state "seeking fairness."

"This historic partnership is women supporting, assisting and advising women at this critical time for women's autonomy," she said. "It's too important not to do right, not to do quickly and not to do well."

The hotline was live as of 7 a.m. on Monday at (833) 309-6301.

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