Now, more than ever, our Commonwealth seems like an oasis of compassion and forward thinking. Sure, we’ve got our problems. But, as the Republican Congress and the nation’s new hot-headed leader prepare to demolish the policies and protections many Americans rely on, we can be grateful for a few things around here.
For example, our state elects leaders, including Republicans, who believe government serves a purpose: We disagree on how government should run, not whether it should exist at all. And we are mercifully short on dim-witted, inexperienced Cabinet members hell-bent on dismantling their own departments.
If Congress ends Obamacare, we’ll still have Romneycare, the near-universal health care coverage put in place by Republican Mitt Romney, who rightly believed that the notion that everybody should pay their share of health care costs is a conservative one.
And this is still a place where women have control over their own bodies. The gropey, throwback crew ascending in DC barely sees women as fully human, let alone as worthy of making decisions about their own bodies. If anybody can get Roe v. Wade repealed, or made irrelevant, these guys can.
But the right to an abortion is firmly established here, settled by a state law and a 1981 decision by the Supreme Judicial Court invalidating arcane laws, which are nonetheless still on the books, prohibiting abortion and outlawing contraception for unmarried women. Legislators have tried a bunch of times to repeal those embarrassing laws. Finally doing away with them would be an important symbolic victory for women now and send a message that this state is not going backward.
“Massachusetts is a leader in protecting access to health care and promoting women’s rights,” says Tricia Wajda, communications head at Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts. By repealing the old laws, she says, “we can demonstrate that commitment.”
There are other, more concrete, battles ahead. If the Affordable Care Act is repealed, contraception will be less accessible to some women. That law views birth control as preventative care, which means no copays, which means every woman can afford it. That’s more generous than Massachusetts law, which imposes cost-sharing for contraceptives. Planned Parenthood has been pushing against this for years, but now the fight takes on new urgency.
As does the fight for the organization’s own survival. The president-elect, and many others, have bayed about defunding it, led in part by Tom Price, the Republican congressman from Georgia who will be nominated as health and human services secretary.
Here, Price and others are out of step with 58 percent of voters, including almost half of those who voted for the president-elect, who favor continued federal funding of Planned Parenthood, according to a September poll. But we already have ample evidence that the next president doesn’t much care what those who voted for him want. So Planned Parenthood is girding for battle.
“We are not giving up,” Wajda says, “and we will continue to fight like hell to ensure people can access the health care they need and deserve.”
President Obama issued a rule last week to protect some Planned Parenthood funding, but nobody at the health provider is under the illusion that that will stick for long.
The good news is that here — as at other nonprofits soon to be on the front lines in the battle against regressive national policies — people are rallying to the cause. Online donations have surged, and in the week after the election, the health provider and its political arm received 800 inquiries from people hoping to volunteer.
When it comes to choice, women in Massachusetts will not be dragged back into the last century. Those in many other states aren’t so lucky.
Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.