MFI Sends Letter to MA DPH in Response to Targeting of Pro-life Medical Professionals

Wakefield, MA – Today, Massachusetts Family Institute sent a letter to Robert Goldstein, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, in response to a memorandum he released last week signaling his intention to target the licenses of pro-life medical professionals in Massachusetts. MFI stands ready to represent pregnancy resource centers and their affiliated healthcare providers in court if DPH violates their constitutional rights. You can read our letter below:

Dear Commissioner Goldstein, 

          On behalf of Massachusetts Family Institute (“MFI”), I write in response to the January 3rd, 2024 memorandum that you issued to Massachusetts healthcare providers regarding “licensure obligations and providing standard of care.”Despite its innocuous title, it is clear that this memorandum represents a thinly veiled threat against any healthcare provider who assists pro-life pregnancy resource centers (“PRCs”) in the vital work they do for women and children in the Commonwealth. MFI strongly supports PRCs and condemns your efforts to intimidate pro-life advocates and healthcare professionals. We call on you to immediately issue a statement clarifying that no Massachusetts healthcare provider shall be targeted due to their pro-life convictions. And should your Department violate the constitutional rights of any PRC or affiliated professional, we are prepared to take legal action to vindicate those rights. 

 Background on Pregnancy Resource Centers

          Pregnancy resource centers and the medical providers who are affiliated with them deserve to be celebrated, not attacked. These charitable centers work tirelessly to help women with unplanned pregnancies. From counseling, to diapers and wipes, to ultrasounds and STI testing, PRCs offer or refer for a wide range of services, all of which are completely free. For example, six of the thirty-plus PRCs in Massachusetts recently reported that they have offered over a million dollars’ worth of free assistance annually, with no strings attached.2 Unsurprisingly, they also report a client satisfaction rating of more than 95%.3 A public records request recently revealed that as of last May, only a handful of complaints have ever been filed against PRCs with the Attorney General’s Office, none of which, to our knowledge, have resulted in any adverse action. Simply put, PRCs in Massachusetts have established a record of honesty, integrity, and compassion as they have served women and children in need.

          Yet, since the Dobbs decision at the U.S. Supreme Court in 2022, pro-life PRCs have been subjected to a relentless campaign of misinformation, hostile legislation, and even physical violence. Not content with legal abortion on demand in Massachusetts, pro-abortion advocates in 2022 moved to crush all opposition to abortion, setting their sights on PRCs. Senator Warren claimed that PRCs “torture” women, while then-Attorney-General Healy issued an official advisory that baselessly accused them of misleading clients.4 At both the state and municipal level, legislators and officials proposed laws to censor the free speech of pro-life centers.5 And across Massachusetts, vitriolic rhetoric was followed by acts of vandalism against them.6 Now, your memorandum represents a new phase in the assault on these charitable organizations

The Threats Your Memorandum Poses

         On its face, much of the language contained in your January 3rd, 2024 memorandum about licensure and standards of care seems generic and unobjectionable. Yet, when one considers the context in which the memorandum was issued, it becomes clear that it is intended to intimidate pro-life medical professionals into abandoning their affiliations with pregnancy resource centers. To start, take the title of the file that you sent to Massachusetts medical professionals: “Guidance on Anti-Abortion Center[s]…” (emphasis added). Moreover, you posted the memorandum to a newly created DPH webpage which states that your Department “actively seeks feedback and complaints from individuals who have had concerning experiences with anti-abortion centers.”7That your office would go out of its way to solicit complaints against pro-life centers makes your bias against pro-life viewpoints unmistakably clear. Finally, portions of the memorandum itself are clearly directed toward PRCs – for example, the emphasis it places on unlicensed personnel performing ultrasounds and the supposed dangers of abortion pill reversal.  

         On many issues, the memorandum uses intentionally vague language to leave pro-life medical professionals guessing as to what sort of conduct could subject them to discipline. For example, you cite two DPH regulations stating that “[a]ny conduct that undermines public confidence in the integrity of the profession is grounds for discipline of a nursing or physician assistant license,” but you provide no examples of what might constitute such conduct.

          Finally, you specifically mention abortion pill reversal (APR) as an example of conduct that would “place into question” a medical professional’s “competence to practice” and could subject them to discipline. You claim that “there is strong evidence that medication abortion reversal is unproven, unethical, and unsafe to provide to patients.” But this is false, and simply serves to highlight your deep bias against pro-life medical professionals.

          The “strong evidence” you cite to highlight the dangers of APR is one article which merely claims that APR has not been proven to be effective; it does not state that APR has been proven to be dangerous.8 To the contrary, the best available research suggests that APR is safe and effective.9 The birth defect rate for babies born after APR is actually lower than the general birth defect rate.10Perhaps most importantly, APR has successfully saved at least 4,000 lives.11These results speak for themselves. 

         Based on such facts, a federal court in Colorado recently enjoined a law which would have subjected doctors to discipline for participating in APR there.12The court reasoned that Colorado’s APR ban was “vastly underinclusive,” since Colorado allowed the off-label use of many other types of drugs, and even the off-label use of progesterone in other circumstances.13 By targeting only pro-life doctors’ off-label use of the drug, Colorado exposed its hostility toward their faith-based beliefs and practices and violated their religious conscience rights.14 The same would be true here if your office takes action against doctors for participating in APR. 

The Legal Consequences of Targeting Pro-Life Professionals 

          Unfairly targeting pro-life medical professionals for disciplinary action, as your 
memorandum indicates you will do, violates their constitutional rights and will expose your office to liability. In particular, your actions threaten to infringe upon pro-life practitioners’ rights to free speech and to the free exercise of their religion.

          The government may neither compel pro-life professionals to speak favorable messages about abortion with which they disagree, nor prohibit them from speaking out against abortion as they see fit. For example, in NIFLA v. Becerra, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a California law that would have forced pro-life PRCs to post notices regarding the availability of abortion services.15 The Court held that this law unconstitutionally compelled the centers to speak a message they did not wish to speak.16 In addition, courts have enjoined laws that target the speech of pro-life centers, including those that purport to regulate “deceptive practices.”17 Under these precedents, penalizing pro-life speech as “deceptive” but giving pro-abortion speakers free rein is viewpoint discrimination, which is absolutely forbidden by the First Amendment.18

          Your memorandum implies that pro-life professionals will be unfairly targeted for 
“deceptive advertising;” in fact, we have already received reports that you have initiated an investigation against at least one PRC based on spurious allegations of deceptive speech. Rest assured that we will support PRCs against these attacks and do all we can to hold your office accountable for any infringement on their free speech rights. 

          In addition, the government may not target pro-life centers or the medical professionals affiliated with them based on their religious beliefs. The Supreme Court has stated that “[o]fficial action that targets religious conduct for distinctive treatment cannot be shielded by mere compliance with the requirement of facial neutrality.”19The Free Exercise Clause forbids “subtle departures from neutrality” as well as blatant religious discrimination.20

          Here, DPH notes on its new webpage regarding PRCs that these centers are often religiously affiliated.21The work that they do to aid women and children is often rooted in Christian beliefs about the sanctity of human life and the value of compassion toward others. But your office has expressed its intention to actively solicit complaints against them, all while apparently turning a blind eye to the abortion industry’s track record of harming and deceiving patients.22Applying a harsher standard to faith-based, pro-life centers than to pro-abortion centers may be a subtle form of discrimination, but it is discrimination nonetheless. Your hostility toward the religious beliefs and practices of pro-life PRCs and their affiliated medical professionals cannot stand. 

Conclusion

          Your office’s transparent attempt, through your recent memorandum, to intimidate pro-life medical professionals into cutting ties with pregnancy resource centers will not succeed. Massachusetts Family Institute will draw on every resource, pursue every remedy and partner with every ally to protect the lifesaving and life-giving work of pregnancy resource centers in Massachusetts. We stand ready to take legal action as necessary to defend these centers. If your office takes seriously its charge to promote the health and wellbeing for all people in the Commonwealth, we call on you to end your attack on pro-life centers and make clear to Massachusetts medical professionals that no one will be targeted because of their opposition to abortion. 

Very truly yours,

Image

Samuel J. Whiting, Esq.
Staff Attorney
Massachusetts Family Institute

1 Robert Goldstein, “Reminder to Licensees Regarding Licensure Obligations and Providing Standard of Care,” 
(January 3rd, 2024).
2 Pregnancy Care Alliance of Massachusetts, “2022 Impact Report.”
3 Pregnancy Care Alliance of Massachusetts, “Facts about Pregnancy Resource Centers.”
See Fox News, “Sen. Elizabeth Warren blasted for attacking crisis pregnancy centers: ‘It’s evil‘;” Office of the 
Massachusetts Attorney General, “AG Healey Warns Patients About Crisis Pregnancy Centers.” It should also be 
noted that multiple pregnancy resource centers invited both Senator Warren and Attorney General Healey to visit 
their centers to see the work that they do, but to our knowledge, neither took them up on the offer. 
See, e.g., Catholic News Agency, “Massachusetts Ordinances Target Pro-Life Pregnancy Centers.”
See, e.g., National Catholic Register, “Mass. Pro-Life Pregnancy Centers Attacked Hours After State Attorney 
General’s Warning
.”
7 Massachusetts Department of Public Health, “Maintaining Integrity, Accessibility, and Transparency in 
Reproductive Care
.”
8 American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, “Medication Abortion ‘Reversal’ is Not Supported by 
Science
.”
9 American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, “The Reversal of the Effects of Mifepristone 
by Progesterone
.”
10 Id
11 Abortion Pill Rescue Network, “Abortion Pill Reversal.”
12 Bella Health & Wellness v. Weiser, 2023 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 192536 (D. Col.). 
13 Id. at *50-51. 
14 Id
15 138 S. Ct. 2361 (2018). 
16 Id. at 2376-78.
17 See Nat’l Inst. of Fam. & Life Advocs. v. Raoul, 2023 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 145807 (N.D. Ill.).
18 See id. at *23-24; see also Rosenberger v. Rector & Visitors of Univ. of Va., 515 U.S. 819, 828 (1995) (“It is 
axiomatic that the government may not regulate speech based on its substantive content or the message it 
conveys.”). 
19 Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. City of Hialeah, 508 U.S. 520, 534 (1993). 
20 Id
21 Massachusetts Department of Public Health, “Maintaining Integrity, Accessibility, and Transparency in 
Reproductive Care
.”
22 See, e.g., Washington Post Fact Checker, “The Repeated, Misleading Claim that Planned Parenthood Provides 
Mammograms
;” Denise Burke, USA Today Opinion, “Planned Parenthood cares about abortion above all, even 
patients’ health: Today’s talker
” (discussing successful whistleblower lawsuit based on unsafe practices). 

View the PDF of Attorney Whiting’s letter here.  

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