BOSTON — Public colleges in Massachusetts that have a health clinic on campus should join an abortion providers’ trade association so they can effectively dispense abortion pills, the state’s public health agency has stated.
Joining the National Abortion Federation, which represents abortion providers, would provide colleges “security support, training, and onsite assessments,” including steering pregnant students who aren’t eligible for chemical abortions to a surgical option, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health said in a recent report.
The report also calls for “values-clarification workshops” to identify objections to the abortion-pills plan and to try to overcome them. The workshops would help identify staff members “who are not comfortable participating in medication abortion care delivery and to integrate discussion of medication abortion care delivery into interview protocols with prospective clinical or support staff,” according to “Medication Abortion Toolkit for Public Colleges and Universities,” a 47-page blueprint the state agency published Nov. 22.
The new report was issued eight months after Gov. Maura Healey, a Democrat, quietly got the state university system’s flagship campus to purchase 15,000 doses of abortion pills in April, during a period of uncertainty over whether a federal judge might ban them.
Supporters of the abortion-toolkit report say it’s not enough that abortion be merely legal in the state, but that it should be readily accessible, too.
“Students in Massachusetts deserve to have the autonomy, the ability, and the choice to make decisions about their own reproductive health that are right for them,” said Robbie Goldstein, a physician and commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, in a written statement. “Preserving this right is more than simply a matter of protecting choice; it’s a matter of equity, dignity, and well-being of students in the Commonwealth. This toolkit represents our commitment to reproductive health and individual choice, and we will continue to work hard to protect these rights and safeguard the health and future of young people across the state.”
The report uses the term “abortion care” 61 times.
Healey called access to various abortion options “critical for safe and informed decision-making” and said colleges and universities “have a responsibility to ensure this access for their students.”
Opponents told the Register the language in the abortion-toolkit report points indirectly at a grim reality.
“The ‘Clinical Staff Values Clarification’ section of the ‘toolkit’ acknowledges that some staff may ‘not [be] comfortable participating in medication abortion care delivery,’ begging the question, ‘Why would they not?’ Is it because administering lethal drugs to kill a frightened and confused young woman’s unborn child will also compel her to flush the recognizable human form of her baby down a toilet and cause her lifelong emotional and psychological damage?” said Patricia Stewart, executive director of Massachusetts Citizens for Life, by email.
“One can only pray that no one serving young women with a crisis pregnancy will be comfortable participating in that deadly regimen,” she added, with italics in the original.
Distance, Wait Time, Cost
Between 600 and 1,380 students at public colleges in Massachusetts get abortions each year, according to an estimate in a December 2021 study published by Smith College.
Abortion supporters express concern about travel time from college campuses to abortion facilities, the wait time for an appointment, the lack of weekend appointments at some abortion facilities, and the cost.
The abortion toolkit is a project of a public-private partnership between the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Reproductive Equity Now Foundation, which advocates for abortion in Massachusetts.
Sam Whiting, staff attorney for the Massachusetts Family Institute, which opposes abortion, said the document is “just more evidence that our government agencies are marching to the tune of the most radical pro-abortion groups” and poses a potential threat to religious freedom.
“Through ‘values-clarification workshops,’ universities are directed to reeducate reluctant staff to see abortion as a positive good. The toolkit even suggests that campus health clinics should discuss abortion in the interview process for new staff. This will likely be used to push Christian employees out of campus clinics and will further promote the destruction of human lives using Massachusetts taxpayer dollars,” Whiting told the Register by email.
Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee, told the Register that the aim of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health “is turning college and university campuses into recruiting centers for the abortion industry.”
“If MDPH truly cared about the students, it would give students options; it would encourage these institutions to partner with a local pregnancy-care center, not just the National Abortion Federation,” Tobias said by email. “Young women being pushed into the arms of the abortion industry will not be informed about possible physical complications and, very likely, lifelong heartaches. They will not be told that killing their preborn child is a permanent solution for a temporary situation.”
Public colleges and universities in Massachusetts had until Nov. 30 to submit a “readiness plan” demonstrating that they either have a referral relationship with nearby abortion providers or that they have determined “the feasibility of offering medication abortion on-site.”
State public health officials are supposed to review the plans by Jan. 31, 2024.