BOSTON — Standing outside the Statehouse Tuesday morning, Easthampton Mayor Nicolle LaChapelle said she drove 90 miles to be there, and that many of her constituents travel greater distances to seek reproductive health care.
LaChapelle was among the six Massachusetts mayors who gathered in the light rain to both push for lawmakers to pass a bill aimed at increasing access to abortion and to speak generally about reproductive care access.
"I am pretty sure, in fact very sure, that there is not a man here that drives 100 miles to have treatment for his prostate," LaChapelle said. "I have constituents in Easthampton who are driving to Connecticut, upstate New York to get basic information and a choice that only they deserve to make."
Five of the mayors — LaChapelle, Martin Walsh of Boston, Daniel Rivera of Lawrence, Yvonne Spicer of Framingham, and Donna Holaday of Newburyport — and 11 others from around the state wrote a letter to lawmakers urging them to advance a bill known as the ROE Act.
The letter is also signed by mayors Joseph Petty of Worcester, Alex Morse of Holyoke, David Narkewicz of Northampton, Ruthanne Fuller of Newton, Stephanie Burke of Medford, Kimberly Driscoll of Salem, Marc McGovern of Cambridge, Jon Mitchell of New Bedford, Michael Cahill of Beverly, Gail Infurna of Melrose and Gary Christenson of Malden.
The bill (H 3320 and S 1209) would eliminate parental consent requirements for teenagers seeking abortions, would allow for abortions after 24 weeks to protect the physical or mental health of a patient, or in cases of diagnosed lethal fetal anomalies, and would include abortion in the pregnancy-related "safety-net" health coverage for Massachusetts residents ineligible for MassHealth.
Speakers at Tuesday's event described it as a backstop against potential federal action to restrict abortion access and a way to send a message to other states and to the Trump administration.
Walsh, a former state representative, said the mayors will work with legislators from their cities to advocate for the bill and share constituent stories.
"We shouldn't be taking away rights from women," Walsh said. "We shouldn't be taking rights away from families, and that's why we're putting a stake in the ground here in Massachusetts. That's why we as mayors today are going to stand shoulder to shoulder with our colleagues in the Senate and the House and demand that action happens, that this bill be taken up, that this bill goes to the governor's desk so that we can continue to add protections here in Massachusetts."
Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone said the bill would help destigmatize abortion. He said passing it presents an opportunity "for us to actually act like the most progressive state in the United States."
The bill, cosponsored by 104 of 200 state legislators, has remained before the Judiciary Committee since a June hearing that brought both supporters and opponents to the State House in droves, filling Gardner Auditorium and spilling over into two hearing rooms during hours of emotionally charged testimony.
The committee is co-chaired by Rep. Claire Cronin (D-Easton) and Sen. Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton).
Sen. Harriette Chandler of Worcester and committee members Sen. Will Brownsberger of Belmont and Rep. Jay Livingstone of Boston stood with the mayors at the event Tuesday.
Opponents of the bill say it would strip away parents' rights to be involved in an important decision for their teenager, and that it remove protections of patients, including one provision that would no longer require an abortion after 24 weeks to take place in a hospital.
Rivera and Spicer said current abortion law can present challenges for young women, women of color, and women living in poverty, who generally face more barriers accessing health care.
"As a person who represents many young women of color, many poor women in my community, any impediment to safe and legal abortion is really a risk to health in my whole community," Rivera said.
Spicer said women of color "have long lost the opportunities to be able to have affordable, quality health care, and these are the women that will promptly suffer if this does not move forward."