This letter offers balance to points made in a letter to the editor by Ms. Theresa Gorey which was recently published in The Eagle-Tribune and The Andover Townsman.
Ms. Theresa Gorey states that the ROE Act (House Bill 3320) is Rep. Tram Nguyen’s bill. Actually the ROE Act is sponsored by Reps. Patricia A. Haddad (5th Bristol) and Jay D. Livingstone (8th Suffolk). Rep. Nguyen is just one of an additional 100 House members from all over the commonwealth who have co-sponsored it. Readers interested in this issue should download the bill from the Massachusetts House website (https://malegislature.gov/bills) and develop their own conclusions.
In my opinion, Ms. Gorey’s choice of words in her interpretation of the House Bill 3320, does not reflect the intent of the bill, nor is her interpretation shared by the legislators who have signed on to support this bill. Demonizing trained medical professionals and duly elected legislators by suggesting they would support and advocate for a bill to kill an unborn child is grossly unjust. Further her omissions on important language within the bill, such as “A physician, acting within their lawful scope of practice”, “physician’s best medical judgment”, “pregnant patient’s written informed consent on a form prescribed by the Commissioner of Public Health”, “duly licensed”, etc. weaken her position.
Lastly, I have found Rep. Nguyen to be open and accessible to constituents. She has made it clear on many occasions that while she may not always share the viewpoint of constituents, she is ready to listen respectfully. My personal observation is that conversations, impassioned or not, as opposed to uninformed accusations, are always welcome.
Yes, I am a supporter of Rep. Nguyen and I have a close working relationship with her. I am also a strong supporter of facts and civil discourse. One does not preclude my support of the other.
IN 2014 a German nongovernmental organization called WASH United dubbed May 28 “International Menstrual Hygiene Day” to raise visibility around the daily struggle many people face with menstrual hygiene management. The date was chosen intentionally as a reference to the average length of the menstrual cycle – 28 days.
Since then nine states in the US have exempted tampons from taxation, acknowledging that the state budget should not be funded by a cost borne by only half the population. In 2016, New York City passed legislation to make menstrual products available in all public schools, shelters, and prisons. And, just a few months ago, we saw a short documentary, Period. End of Sentence, take home an Academy Award and watched the filmmakers give an impassioned acceptance speech about the need for better menstrual health education and access to menstrual products across the globe.
Right here in Massachusetts, Somerville, New Bedford, and Brookline student activists are organizing to demand that bathrooms be stocked with menstrual products. And town meeting in Brookline voted last week to do just that. It can’t be denied that the menstrual equity movement is growing.
Today, our Massachusetts Legislature has an opportunity to lead the country in menstrual equity legislation by passing Mass NOW’s new bill, An Act to Increase Access to Disposable Menstrual Products in Prisons, Homeless Shelters, and Public Schools. (It’s nicknamed the “I AM. Bill.”) The bill, sponsored by Sen. Patricia Jehlen of Somerville and Reps. Jay Livingstone of Boston and Christine Barber of Somerville, contains language to ensure the products are truly accessible without stigmatizing the individual seeking them.
Here at Mass NOW, one of our founding organizing principles is ‘the personal is political’ and this legislation brings what has always been considered a personal issue to the political forefront. By providing access to free, quality menstrual products to public school students, incarcerated people, and homeless individuals who menstruate, we are taking on issues of public health, economic inequality, educational equity, and gender equity — all while breaking down one of our most systemic and ancient taboos.
As it stands, over 70 legislators have signed on in support of our bill and more than 40 menstrual activists, advocacy organizations, nonprofits, businesses, and public servants in Massachusetts have signed onto the Massachusetts Menstrual Equity Coalition. But the path forward is long and our work toward ending the stigma around menstruation is far from over. There is a dearth of information about what the state of access to menstrual products is in schools, prisons, and shelters. We’re working with stakeholders across the state to gather stories from all those who would be impacted by this bill to develop an implementation strategy that’s feasible, economical, and truly a service to those it’s meant to support.
Language matters because it is a part of how systems of oppression operate. That’s why the bill refers to “menstruating individuals” – because we know that not all women menstruate, and not all menstruators identify as a woman. We also avoid using the word hygiene because periods are not something dirty that needs to be cleaned away.
Mass NOW is calling on menstruators and non-menstruators alike to talk about periods. The power in the stigma and shame around menstruation – and around female and femme identifying bodies more broadly – lies in our refusal to even talk about it. We have the power to break this cycle through conversations around the dinner table, in health education classes and with Mass NOW; in consciousness raising style in living rooms across the Commonwealth. We shouldn’t need a day to talk about periods, but once you start talking about it, you’ll find that the conversation doesn’t stop flowing.Sasha Goodfriend is the president of the Massachusetts chapter of the National Organization of Women.
On Wednesday, March 13th 2019, the Massachusetts State House of Representatives passed legislation to ban conversion therapy on minors and legislation to expand access to public assistance for families. Both bills were priorities of mine this session (and past sessions) and I am excited vote for them to pass the House. More information about each can be found below.
Prohibits health care providers from advertising for or engaging in efforts that attempt or purport to impose change on the sexual orientation or gender identity of a patient less than 18 years of age.
The controversial conversion therapy that this legislation would ban has been used to try to “convert” someone who is LGBTQ to being heterosexual, treating a person’s sexuality as an illness rather than a part of who they are.
By Katie Lannan / State House News ServicePosted Mar 13, 2019 at 2:01 AM
BOSTON – Gathering in the State House Monday, dozens of senior advocates chanted to state legislators: “Massachusetts can do better.”
Kathy Paul, president of the North Shore chapter of the Massachusetts Senior Action Council, led the chant, encouraging advocates to keep pressure on their lawmakers.
“We will not stop until we see the senior health care gap close,” Paul said at a lobby day hosted by senior and home care groups. “We will not stop until every senior can afford food. We will not stop until housing and health care is a right, because Massachusetts can do better.”
Paul and other speakers at the event urged seniors and caregivers to share their stories and make sure their issues remain top-of-mind for the lawmakers who will build next year’s state budget and consider the many priority bills filed by supportive members this year.
“This system is broken, and it is failing our elders, and it is time to change that,” said Sarah Blakeney of the Senior Action Council. “I stand here before you, at the age of 91, to say, we should take a stand.”
According to statistics presented by advocacy groups, one in 10 adults age 60 and over in Massachusetts receive food assistance benefits, more than 844,000 Bay Staters are caring for aging parents or loved ones, and the average Social Security benefit for a family of adults 65-years-old or older is about $16,791 per year.
At 1.4 million, adults 60 and older make up 21 percent of the state’s population.
The event was organized by several groups, including the Senior Action Council, the AARP of Massachusetts, Massachusetts Councils on Aging, Mass. Home Care, the Alzheimer’s Association, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, the Home Care Alliance of Massachusetts and the Home Care Aide Council. Advocates highlighted legislation addressing access to health care for seniors, support for family caregivers and home care workers, and housing affordability.
Mattie Lacewell of the Senior Action Council’s Springfield chapter said caring for an ailing loved one can take a toll. An 82-year-old who described herself as a “fairly healthy old lady,” Lacewell said her sister-in-law suffers from Alzheimer’s and her brother, who had been his wife’s primary caregiver, is now in declining health.
Lacewell said her brother has had to fill out an “overwhelming” number of forms, but has not been able to get MassHealth coverage for his wife. Applying for food assistance has also “been tough,” she said.
“It’s like you’re going around in a circle. What I hope for is that the application process could be a little more simplified, because it’s frustrating, it really, really is,” Lacewell said. “When we see our representatives today, we’re going to tell them — we’re not going to ask them anymore, we’re going to tell them — that we need a better system. We want to end the struggle of applying for the help that we’re entitled to.”
Bills filed by Sen. Sal DiDomenico and Rep. Jay Livingstone (S 678, H 1173) would create a common application for benefits, including MassHealth and the supplemental nutrition assistance (SNAP), or food stamps. According to the Law Reform Institute, allowing simultaneous applications for MassHealth and SNAP would increase food access for more than 100,000 elders in Massachusetts.
Lacewell called it “atrocious” that someone on a fixed income might need to choose between paying for groceries and medication.
Gov. Charlie Baker, in his fiscal 2020 budget, proposed expanding eligibility for the Medicare Savings Program, which help seniors pay for Medicare premiums and out-of-pocket expenses. Baker’s proposal would increase the income limits for different tiers of the program — currently ranging from 100 percent to 135 percent of the federal poverty level — to 130 percent to 165 percent of the federal poverty level.
Advocates on Monday voiced support for that plan, but also called for the passage of bills (S 640, H 615) that would expand Medicare Savings Program eligibility to 300 percent of the poverty level.
Other bills backed by the groups include one that would require Massachusetts Senior Care Options plans to provide consultations with experts when members are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and related dementias (H 614, S 367), and another to establish a tax credit for family caregivers (H 2608, S 702).
Sen. Patricia Jehlen, a 75-year-old Somerville Democrat who chairs the Elder Affairs Committee with Newton Rep. Ruth Balser, told the senior advocates that they are “helping to change the image of old people.”
“I think you’re changing the image of us as being victims, of people who need help — we all need help, but as people who are problem solvers as well,” she said.
While State Rep. Jay Livingstone conceived his legislative agenda for the new year with his constituents firmly in mind, he hopes it will also reverberate on a national level.
“I focused on priorities for the district, as well as thinking about how to continue making Massachusetts a leader, which is more necessary now because of what is happening at the federal level,” he said. “One thing that is under attack nationally is women’s reproductive rights…and we want to make it clear that Massachusetts reaffirms women’s reproductive rights.”
Livingstone and Rep. Pat Haddad have filed legislation called “The ROE Act” to protect women’s decisions regarding their own bodies, which has become the “top priority in the legislative term” for the nonprofits NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts and Planned Parenthood.
According to Planned Parenthood, “The ROE Act eliminates the onerous requirement that forces teens to obtain permission from a parent or judge to access abortion. This process causes teens to delay care or travel outside of the state, and is opposed by the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics.”
Another bill that Livingstone filed with Rep. Adrian Madaro, who represents East Boston, aims to raise fees on Uber and Lyft to better align them with the fees levied on ride-sharing services in other states while using the proceeds to improve public transit, as well as bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.
“I’m excited to address improving our transportation system and discouraging use of fossil fuels,” Livingstone said. “I think this bill will help address congestion that is increasing at an exponential rate because of these services and decrease transportation pollution as a result.”
Meanwhile, Livingstone and Rep. Andy Vargas have filed new legislation t to further facilitate early voting in all elections.
“I think we should continue to make voting as easy as possible for people to increase participation,” Livingstone said.