Patients and providers are encouraged to contact the hotline through the encrypted communications platform Signal, although regular calls or messages sent to the hotline will also be received. (iStock.com/gorodenkoff)
The hotline is similar to one set up by New York Attorney General Letitia James last year that won the backing of two dozen BigLaw firms, including Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison LLP, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP and Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP. Ropes & Gray and Foley Hoag also participate in the New York hotline.
Abortion legal questions started percolating in Massachusetts in the wake of the passage of SB8, which severely restricted abortion in Texas, last September, and inquiries ramped up significantly after the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization , according to Rebecca Hart Holder of the Reproductive Equity Now Foundation.
A new Massachusetts law shielding providers from out-of-state prosecution also brought out new concerns.
"As soon as we passed the shield law, we started getting questions," Hart Holder said during a press conference Monday announcing the hotline. "'What can we do?' 'How can we be safe?' 'Will I get arrested?' 'What is going to happen to my home if I get sued?' So this is in response to very real patient and provider questions."
Patients and providers are encouraged to contact the hotline through the encrypted communications platform Signal, although regular calls or messages sent to the hotline will also be received. A representative will call back in two to three days to gather questions and relevant information. That is then sent to one of the program's pro bono attorneys.
Former Massachusetts attorney general Martha Coakley, who practices at Foley Hoag, said the legal referral hotline is a logical next step to help patients and providers after lawmakers passed what's seen as the most comprehensive abortion shield law in the nation.
"It's too important not to do right, not to do quickly and not to do well," Coakley said.
In the six months after the Supreme Court's decision reversed its Roe v. Wade decision, 24 states have already banned or are likely to ban abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Last week, the Florida Supreme Court agreed to take up a challenge to its abortion ban.
--Editing by Gemma Horowitz.