Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, we did not expect to see a state attorney general threaten to seek civil sanctions against reproductive health facilities. But Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has done just that.
On July 6, Healey issued a “consumer advisory” against “Crisis Pregnancy Centers” in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts that “seek to prevent people from accessing abortion care.” That same evening, vandals attacked Clearway Clinic in Worcester, MA, smashing windows and destroying the property of the faith-based, pro-life organization.
Not to be outdone by the attorney general’s “advisory,” just a few weeks later, Healey’s civil rights division sent a letter to at least one pregnancy resource center (PRC) suggesting that the division could seek sanctions against reproductive health facilities that inform “pregnant people” of the option of keeping their babies. Within days, vandals struck other facilities, splattering the walls with red paint, scrawling “not real abortion clinic” and “if abortions aren’t safe, neither are you” across clinic entrances, walls, and park benches surrounding a statue of the Virgin Mary.
All Americans should agree that such acts of violence and intimidation have no place in our republic. Certainly, Americans of good will can disagree with one another on such an emotionally charged issue without resorting to smashing windows and vandalizing property.
When the chief legal officer for the Commonwealth places her finger on the scales of justice, we all suffer. An attorney general does not need to be committed to the pro-life cause to prosecute vandalism and destruction of property. These are crimes under the laws of Massachusetts. But, to our knowledge, the vandals remain at large. Authorities have made no arrests. And, to our knowledge, Attorney General Healey has taken no action to investigate and prosecute those responsible.
Moreover, though Healey has threatened to unleash the full power of her office upon PRCs in Massachusetts, it appears she cannot be bothered to send a similar letter to the leaders of Jane’s Revenge, the group of vandals whose name is emblazoned in spray paint on numerous sidewalks, benches, walls, and parking lots owned by PRCs.
Who are these faith-based organizations on the receiving end of Healey’s politically charged ire? They are men and women motivated by their faith to provide medical and professional counseling services, and to give away diapers, baby wipes, and hand-knitted baby booties to those in need. They distribute free supplies, including formula, baby food, blankets, and clothing. Many offer parenting programs that help equip new parents facing the important job of raising their children. Others offer free screenings for STDs along with free pregnancy tests, medical consultations, and professional counseling. For those who respond negatively to their abortion experience, PRCs provide supportive counseling and mentors. Some even recruit knitters throughout their community to knit sweaters, booties, and blankets that are given—free of charge—to women who request them for their babies.
Rather than protect these faith-based organizations providing much-needed professional reproductive health services to Bay State mothers, as is the duty of her office, Healey placed them in harm’s way.
In a letter sent on behalf of our PRC clients, we asked Healey to remove the inflammatory “consumer advisory” and withdraw her letter. Further, we asked that she articulate precisely what her office is doing to protect all Bay Staters. Has she directed law enforcement to investigate the violent acts against PRCs? Is she pursuing civil sanctions against those interfering with access to reproductive health services at Massachusetts’ PRCs?
Both federal and state law protect PRCs as reproductive health facilities. As the U.S. Supreme Court recently noted, public officials may not act “in a manner intolerant of religious beliefs or [restrict] practices because of their religious nature.” Nor may officials “act in a manner that passes judgment upon or presupposes the illegitimacy of religious beliefs and practices” of these PRCs.
Instead, the Supreme Court explains: “the Constitution commits government itself to religious tolerance, and upon even slight suspicion that proposals for state intervention stem from animosity to religion or distrust of its practices, all officials must pause to remember their own high duty to the Constitution and to the rights it secures.”
Tolerance is in short supply these days. The attorney general of Massachusetts is welcome to disagree with these PRCs and their volunteers. She should not be permitted to turn a blind eye to crimes committed against them.
Andrew Beckwith is President and General Counsel Massachusetts Family Institute. Jeremy Dys is Senior Counsel at First Liberty Institute, a nonprofit law firm dedicated to defending religious freedom for all.
The views expressed in this article are the writers’ own.