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Baker: Mass. may ‘encourage’ employers in states that outlawed abortion to relocate to the Bay State

The Boston Globe logo The Boston Globe 6/27/2022 Samantha J. Gross
Governor Charlie Baker © Barry Chin/Globe Staff Governor Charlie Baker

Governor Charlie Baker said Monday the state may “encourage” employers in places that have effectively outlawed abortion to relocate to Massachusetts, where abortion rights are enshrined in law and are among the strongest in the country.

“I do believe that having listened to and heard from a lot of companies over the course of the past several days about what this decision means with respect to their workforces and their benefit plans that there may in fact be a big opportunity here for Massachusetts to encourage some employers to either come here or expand their footprint here, as we are a state that takes this issue seriously,” Baker said.

In the wake of a US Supreme Court decision that ended constitutional protections for abortion, Baker told reporters he has been “tracking” companies across the country where chief executives have promised employees that they would expense reimbursement for those seeking abortions in another state or fund health savings accounts that could pay for such services. After a memo previewing the high court’s decision on the case leaked last month, companies began to come out with such policies. On Friday, others made statements expressing similar sentiments.

Some companies that stayed silent last month spoke up for the first time Friday, including The Walt Disney Co., which said it will reimburse employees who must travel out of state to get an abortion.

Facebook parent Meta, American Express, Bank of America, and Goldman Sachs also said they would cover travel costs. Companies like Apple, Starbucks, Lyft, and Yelp reiterated previous announcements taking similar action.

More than a dozen states have “trigger laws” that effectively banned abortion at varying stages upon the high court’s ruling last week.

Baker, a rare Republican elected official who supports the right to abortion, signed an executive order last Friday that he said aimed to “protect reproductive health care providers who serve out-of-state residents.”

The order banned executive state agencies from assisting another state’s investigation into a person or group for receiving or performing abortions that are legal in Massachusetts or extraditing those patients or providers. The order also addressed laws imposed in states that criminalize abortions and other services, and protects Massachusetts abortion providers from losing their professional licenses or receiving other professional discipline based on potential out-of-state charges.


Video: Gov. Baker signs executive order to protect abortion access in Massachusetts (CBS Boston)

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Baker, a Swampscott resident who is not running for reelection, was one of the only Republican governors in the country to take such a stance in response to the Supreme Court ruling.

“We obviously spent the time between the time of [the leaked Supreme Court ruling] draft and the issuance of the ultimate decision, coming up with a plan that would . . . provide relief to people who came here from other states seeking those services safe,” he said.

Business groups applauded Baker’s executive order, underscoring their opposition to the Supreme Court ruling and promising to make Massachusetts a welcoming environment for employers who support a person’s right to choose an abortion.

The Mass Technology Leadership Council, a network of tech executives and entrepreneurs, slammed the high court decision for its “potential to limit [women’s] economic independence and progress.”

Associated Industries of Massachusetts, which represents 3,500 businesses from various industries throughout the state, said in a statement it supports the efforts employers are making to respond to the high court ruling, and made clear its “support for women’s equality on every front.”

Jesse Mermell, a consultant who used to work as an adviser to Governor Deval Patrick and as a senior leader at the state’s Planned Parenthood League, said it’s long been the case that employers and workers have been lured to Massachusetts by progressive state policies like a higher minimum wage, paid family leave, and earned sick time. When she worked for Patrick, the administration pursued a similar recruiting effort for life sciences and clean energy industries.

“We know that states that have policies that support workers and support families attract employers and attract employees,” said Mermell, who also served as president of the Alliance for Business Leadership and ran for Congress in 2020. “Employers already want to come here for that . . . I have every reason to believe that abortion will be on the radar screen for major companies.”

In recent years, Massachusetts has expanded access to abortion and repealed old antiabortion measures, helping ensure it remains legal here regardless of federal judicial action. In 2020, abortion rights were expanded and formally codified in state law, despite Baker’s veto of the legislation, dubbed the Roe Act.

At the time, Baker said he “strongly” supported aspects of the legislation, but vetoed it because he said he could not support sections “that expand the availability of later-term abortions and permit minors age 16 and 17 to get an abortion without the consent of a parent or guardian.”

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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