QUESTIONS FOR 8TH ESSEX CANDIDATES: No. 7 — Privacy rights in a post-Roe world

The Marblehead News posed a series of common questions to the six Democratic candidates for state representative from the 8th Essex District. There is no declared Republican candidate, meaning the winner of the primary Tuesday, Sept. 6 is likely to head to Beacon Hill to serve Marblehead, Swampscott and a portion of Lynn. Over the next two weeks, the Marblehead News will post the candidates’ responses to our questions, side by side, alternating the order as we go.

Previous questions:

Q1. Tell us about yourself.

Q2. What life event most profoundly affected your political views, and how did it shape them?

Q3. What are your three top priorities for the 8th Essex District?

Q4. During the Marblehead League of Women Voters’ 8th Essex District forum, candidates agreed nearly on all the issues. How would you distinguish yourself from the others? 

Q5. 2022 has been a horrific year for gun violence. While Massachusetts has the strongest gun-control legislation in the country, what, if any, actions can be taken to further address gun violence in Massachusetts?

Q6. Marblehead has more than 14 miles of coastline, making it especially vulnerable to climate change and rising sea levels. How will you work with town and state leaders on sustainability and climate change issues, as well as plans to mitigate impacts in Marblehead?

Today’s question:

Q7. With respect to the Dobbs abortion decision, some are saying the court’s rationale also imperils other matters of personal privacy, including the right of same-sex couples to marry and the right to contraception. What should the Legislature be doing now to prepare for the possibility that these rights, too, could be abrogated? 

Doug Thompson

Doug Thompson

The Legislature should codify in state law any matter of personal privacy where there is any chance that the Supreme Court could take away a federal right. This certainly applies to same-sex marriage and contraception.

Polly Titcomb

Polly Titcomb

The legislature should be reviewing our own legislation in Massachusetts regarding marriage equality and the right to contraception and strengthening the statutory protections preemptively. The state must be explicit in our intentions to protect these rights for all people in Massachusetts and work with other state legislatures to do the same.

Terri Tauro

Terri Tauro

It is not a question of if, but when. We need to work immediately to codify the rights of bodily autonomy, LGBTQ+ and personal privacy.

We have to support all those who live in Massachusetts without
regard to their race, religion, gender identification or socioeconomic background. We have worked for decades in this country to secure the rights that the court is looking to take away, and we must stand together to protect our friends and neighbors.

We have to put safeguards in place in Massachusetts for our residents and our fellow human beings in states that mean to persecute and deny their human rights. Our communities and districts must promote Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. It is much harder to hate when you get to know what is inside of a person.

Jenny Armini

Jenny Armini

Although the decision in Dobbs was expected, the majority opinion and concurring opinions were breathtaking in their attack on abortion rights. In particular, Justice Thomas’s writing left no doubt that he views the privacy underpinnings of Roe and cases like Griswold (contraception) and Obergefell (gay marriage) to be unsupported by the Constitution. 

We are fortunate in Massachusetts to have all three rights protected either by the Supreme Judicial Court’s interpretation of the Massachusetts Constitution or by legislation. Goodridge enshrined gay marriage into state law in 2003, although if SCOTUS overturned Obergefell, gay married couples would lose federal benefits. 

The Roe Act (2020), and the ACCESS Act (2017) stand as bulwarks against the Dobbs case and any future decisions related to contraception. That said, if Congress moves to pass laws overturning any of it, Massachusetts would be forced to comply, so the work is not so much at the state level, but at the federal level. It is absolutely imperative that we elect Democrats to the United States House and Senate; any future Republican majority leaves our rights vulnerable. 

Yet, in an evolving legal landscape, vigilance at the state level is required. There is still work to be done regarding access to abortion services. I applaud Beacon Hill for moving quickly to protect providers from litigation, create privacy safeguards, and add funding. But this is the new normal. Funding for more services and security is now an ongoing need, especially as women from other states seek care. 

Tristan Smith

Tristan Smith

The Dobbs decision overturning 50 years of precedent established in Roe v. Wade is the result of a right-wing, activist Supreme Court executing on a decades-long conservative effort to restrict a child-bearing person’s right to their bodily autonomy. There is no doubt that other rights established by long precedent are next on their radar.

The Commonwealth has always stood as a leader in these fundamental rights. Our legislature needs to not only be a leader to benefit those who live in this state, but also as a beacon for those who live out of state to access these fundamental rights. This means protecting those who provide or seek reproductive healthcare from out-of-state litigation. 

What the legislature should be doing now is looking for loopholes in our state laws and Constitution that could be exploited if the federal decisions upholding these rights are struck down. We must ensure that our laws stand on their own feet so that no one loses their right to marry, have or not have a family, or these other personal rights that the right to privacy guarantees. 

Diann Slavit Baylis

Diann Slavit-Baylis

We need a leader who will fight for civil rights and equality for every resident of this district. The Supreme Court’s decision repealing Roe v. Wade is undermining the fundamental rights of American women to privacy and reproductive healthcare, and our state legislature has responded appropriately to protect access here in Massachusetts. 

But make no mistake about it: The justices on the Supreme Court that want to take our nation backward won’t stop here, they are only getting started. Justice Thomas signaled as much in his Dobbs opinion, and it’s almost certain that we will see challenges to the right to access contraception that was established in Griswold, and the right to marriage equality under Obergefell.

While these rights are protected under our state constitution, we need to be vigilant in ensuring that future appointments to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court do not allow for backsliding on these protections. This really hit me recently when an LGBTQ+ student at Marblehead High School told me that they weren’t looking at colleges outside of Massachusetts because they don’t feel safe in other states. That’s not what America should look like.

I won’t back down on civil rights, whether it be the right to choose, voting rights, equality for the LGBTQ+ community, or the right of states to keep their citizens safe from gun violence. So if you want a champion on civil rights, someone with the skills, experience and legal training to fight for you effectively, I ask for your vote.

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