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Amid national erosion of access, abortion rights group endorses Healey in Mass. governor’s race

Attorney General Maura Healey spoke at a hearing in the Gardner Auditorium about a bill to expand abortion access in Massachusetts.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff

National abortion-rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America endorsed Maura Healey for governor Wednesday, citing her record championing reproductive freedoms in Massachusetts and across the country, and her leadership as cochair of the Democratic Attorneys General Association.

The high-profile endorsement comes as the US Supreme Court is poised to decide a case that directly challenges Roe v. Wade, setting the nation up for a potential undoing of the landmark abortion law by the conservative-majority bench, a key reason why NARAL is endorsing candidates months ahead of primary elections.

Twenty-eight states across the country have passed laws limiting access ahead of an expected decision this summer, according to NARAL, and abortion rights advocates say the current political climate underscores the importance of supporting leaders and states that have strong abortion protections.

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NARAL Vice President Kristin Ford told the Globe that it is important to have “unequivocal champions” especially in the governor’s office. “It’s even more important now than it has been in the past. There is a very real possibility that the Supreme Court allows states to ban abortion, and it’s incumbent upon states to expand access and courageously defend reproductive rights in the face of these relentless attacks.”

Healey is running against state Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz, who also strongly supports abortion rights. The two Republicans in the race are Geoff Diehl, who a spokeswoman described as “pro-life” and Chris Doughty, who has said he generally disapproves of abortions.

NARAL, whose statewide affiliate has backed Healey in the past, said it did not receive a response to its questionnaire from Chang-Díaz.

The Chang-Díaz campaign says it was never contacted by NARAL Pro-Choice America.

“There are two pro-choice women in this race. One of whom is a woman of color,” said campaign spokeswoman Kaitlyn Solares. “As the only woman of color in the race and a leader who has been a fierce champion of reproductive justice, it is deeply troubling and unacceptable that any national organization would exclude her from their process.”

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The group has also endorsed Representatives Katherine Clark and Ayanna Pressley in their 2022 reelection campaigns for the US House.

The case being decided by the Supreme Court — Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization — directly challenges Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that provided a constitutional right to an abortion up to the third trimester of pregnancy, superseding any state restrictions. Legal experts say the court is expected to uphold the Mississippi law, which bans nearly all abortions after 15 weeks, setting the stage for dozens of other states to legally ban abortions after that period. Roe protects the right to abortion until around 24 weeks.

Healey is one of two dozen state attorneys general that has called on the Supreme Court to reverse Mississippi’s ban and has joined in a pledge to decline to prosecute abortion-related restrictions if Roe is overturned.

“I am honored to have NARAL’s support at a time when reproductive freedom is under threat like never before,” Healey said in a statement. “With the looming possibility of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade this June, it will be on our next governor to continue to protect access to safe and legal abortion in Massachusetts, break down systemic barriers to these services, and expand access to comprehensive reproductive care for all.”

On the campaign trail, Healey has touted her record of support for reproductive rights, highlighting her involvement in cases across the country and her early support for the so-called Roe Act, which the Massachusetts legislature passed in December 2020 after overriding a veto from Governor Charlie Baker. The law, which was passed in anticipation of challenges to Roe v. Wade, strengthened access by allowing abortions after 24 weeks in certain cases and lowering the age that a person can obtain an abortion without parental consent to 16 from 18.

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NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, the statewide affiliate of the national group, paid for advertisements pushing the Roe Act at the time, which featured elected women across the state, including Healey.

Unlike many other states, people in Massachusetts can get an abortion from a doctor, midwife, nurse practitioner, or physician’s assistant, and people who are less than 10 weeks pregnant can access the abortion pill through telemedicine.

As attorney general, Healey sued the Trump administration over a myriad of policies, including access to birth control and abortion via telehealth, led investigations into “crisis pregnancy” centers, and supported efforts to protect the safety of abortion providers.

Before she was elected to statewide office, Healey led the office’s civil rights division, where she oversaw the defense of Massachusetts’ Buffer Zone Law that aimed to protect patients from harassment at clinics.

Beyond her support in Massachusetts, Healey was also involved in litigation in various federal courts. Last year she was among two dozen attorneys general who urged the US Supreme Court to stop Texas’ six-week abortion ban, filing a brief in support of the Department of Justice’s challenge to the ban. She filed similar briefs with appeals courts in Arizona, Indiana, South Carolina, and Tennessee, where state legislatures passed bills that restricted access to abortions.

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She also cochaired the Democratic Attorneys General Association, a campaign committee that requires candidates seeking endorsements to publicly state their support for abortion rights, a policy NARAL’s Ford called “tremendous.”

The importance of having a governor who supports reproductive rights is crucial, according to other civil rights groups who have not endorsed in the race.

“Our right to abortion shouldn’t depend on where we live,” said Carol Rose, the executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts, which doesn’t endorse candidates for political office. “Voters want to know where candidates for elected office stand on reproductive freedom, especially since these core constitutional rights are under attack nationwide.”

The Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts, which endorses state-level candidates but has not yet endorsed in the 2022 races, echoed the sentiment, emphasizing the importance of leadership on abortion rights in state houses.

“Leadership on reproductive rights at the state level is increasingly important, especially now, as federal protections and established law are at risk of being taken away,” spokeswoman Rezwana Huq wrote in a statement.

NARAL has endorsed just three gubernatorial candidates in the 2022 cycle — Democrats Stacey Abrams in Georgia, incumbent Governor Steve Sisolak in Nevada, and Josh Shapiro in Pennsylvania — though other endorsements will be coming between now and Election Day in other states, Ford said.

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Samantha J. Gross can be reached at samantha.gross@globe.com. Follow her @samanthajgross.