Yesterday the Massachusetts State Legislature passed emergency Bill H.4930 entitled “An Act expanding protections for reproductive rights.” The State House News Service touted it as
a major response bill aimed at ensuring that Massachusetts residents and those who travel here from other states can continue to access reproductive and gender-affirming health care without legal repercussions.
The legislation is intended to protect the continued practice of abortion as well as “gender-affirming health care services” which the bill describes
as all supplies, care and services of a medical, behavioral health, mental health, surgical, psychiatric, therapeutic, diagnostic, preventative, rehabilitative or supportive nature relating to the treatment of gender dysphoria.
The most striking part of the bill, in my opinion, is aimed directly at lawyers who might challenge “legally-protected health care activities” or “gender-affirming” services.
If a person, including any plaintiff, prosecutor, attorney or law firm, whether or not acting under color of law, abusive litigation, or attempts of abusive litigation, with legally-protected health care activity, any aggrieved person…may institute and prosecute a civil action for injunctive, monetary or other appropriate relief…
Such “appropriate relief” includes
the amount of actual damages, which shall include damages for the amount of any judgment issued in connection with any abusive litigation, and any and all other expenses, costs or reasonable attorney’s fees incurred in connection with the abusive litigation.
“Abusive litigation” is described in the bill as any legal action commenced outside the Commonwealth that seeks to thwart an abortion or sex-change procedure within Massachusetts. Unfortunately, the language of the statute is written so broadly that it is likely to deter most lawyers from initiating any legal proceedings that maybe construed as a challenge a person’s claim to these services.
It’s a dangerous precedent to set.