Senator Joan B. Lovely
State Senator
2nd Essex District


March 4, 2022

Senate Passes Bills Supporting Equitable Health Care Access for Women

Legislation would expand access to maternal postpartum care, menstrual products in public place 

BOSTON – On Thursday, the Massachusetts State Senate passed two bills that would expand equitable health care access for women in Massachusetts. One bill would help to address the crisis in maternal health by ensuring that pregnant and postpartum mothers and birthing people get necessary and potentially life-saving health care by extending MassHealth insurance coverage to 12 months after pregnancy. A second bill would direct the state to provide menstrual products free of cost in certain public places, including schools, correctional facilities, and shelters and other temporary housing.  

“Lack of attention to the health care of women, girls and those who identify as women has posed substantial and potentially life-threatening challenges, but today the Senate is kicking off Women’s History Month by taking steps to rectify this,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “The danger of dying during pregnancy or childbirth is still far too high in the United States, particularly for Black women, but the Senate is committed to continuing our efforts to ensure pregnant and postpartum mothers and people who give birth receive the critical care they need and deserve. In addition, menstrual products are essential to the health and well-being of women, girls, and people who menstruate. Making them conveniently available in public spaces like schools will result in less stress, a reduced financial burden, and better overall outcomes. I’d like to thank Senators Jehlen and Lovely for their unwavering efforts to bring attention to and address these issues, and to my colleagues throughout the Senate for their support for these bills.” 

“The passage of these bills reflects the Senate’s commitment to expanding access to equitable care, urgently addressing maternal health and providing support for those who need it most, ensuring that every mom and baby is afforded the opportunity of a healthy pregnancy and start at life,” said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “Thank you to Senate President Spilka for her steady leadership, to Senators Lovely, Jehlen, and Friedman for their diligent work on this legislation, and to my colleagues in the Senate for voting to support women’s health.” 

“Today, the Massachusetts Senate has taken another step to combat inequities in maternal health,” said Senator Joan B. Lovely (D-Salem), Chair of the Senate Committee on Rules and the lead sponsor of legislation related to maternal postpartum care. “By extending postpartum healthcare coverage to a full year, birthing individuals will be able to access vital physical and behavioral health resources that will decrease mortality and severe morbidity and improve the overall health of parent and child, especially for our minority populations. I want to thank Senate President Spilka, Senate Ways and Means Chair Rodrigues, and their teams for their partnership and support on expanding maternal healthcare. I also want to thank Senator Jehlen for her work on ensuring menstrual equity. Both bills passed today improve access to key resources in our Commonwealth.” 

“That we are considering this bill today is a result of the leadership of so many young people, particularly high school students across the state, from Brookline to Belchertown,” said Senator Patricia D. Jehlen (D-Sommerville), the lead sponsor of legislation related to access to menstrual products. “Once you start thinking about it, the need seems obvious. As the menstrual equity coalition says, ‘Non-menstruating people go into a bathroom expecting their basic bodily needs to be met—this is not the case for menstruators.’ This is now being seen as an issue because new generations are saying words out loud that used to be hidden by euphemisms, and they’re talking about needs that were unrecognized because they weren’t named.” 

According to a recent report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of women identified as having died of maternal causes in the United States climbed from 658 in 2018 to 861 in 2020, with the maternal death rate for Black women reaching an alarming 55.3 deaths per 100,000 live births. Under the maternal health legislation, MassHealth would be directed to provide standard coverage for eligible pregnant and postpartum residents of the Commonwealth for 12 months after the end of the pregnancy. Additionally, the Secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services would be directed to maximize federal financial participation for coverage and benefits of eligible pregnant and postpartum residents. This bill follows last year’s Maternal Health Equity legislation, which was signed into law in January 2021. 

The legislation relevant to menstrual products would require primary and secondary schools, temporary housing facilities such as shelters, correctional institutions, jails, and houses of correction to provide safe, disposable menstrual products in a convenient and non-stigmatizing way, at no cost to recipients. 

An Act to increase access to disposable menstrual products and An Act relative to expanding equitable access to maternal postpartum care now head to the Massachusetts House of Representatives for consideration.