Mass. bill would ban sale of reproductive and gender affirming care locations taken from cellphones

BOSTON (AP) — The Massachusetts House unanimously approved legislation Wednesday that would ban companies from selling cellphone location data collected during visits to reproductive and gender-affirming care clinics.

Democratic House Speaker Ronald Mariano said the goal is to ensure that the right to receive and provide that type of care remains ironclad in Massachusetts.

Supporters of the legislation say the location data in question could be used to target and harass patients and providers. Some state governments and federal regulators were already moving to keep individuals’ reproductive health information private when a U.S. senator’s report in February described how cellphone location data was used to send millions of anti-abortion ads to people who visited Planned Parenthood offices.

“While Massachusetts has a proud history of protecting and expanding access to reproductive health care, evolving efforts from extremist Republicans across the country, made possible by the Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority, continue to threaten the safety of women who come to the commonwealth from other states to seek care,” said House Speaker Ronald Mariano.

Companies would need a customer’s permission to collect and process location information from a reproductive or gender affirming care location with limited exceptions, such as a response to an emergency service agency.

The state attorney general’s office would be required to issue regulations and have the authority to enforce those rules.

The bill now heads to the Massachusetts Senate.

Although abortion remains legal in Massachusetts, lawmakers have taken steps to further protect those rights and establish additional safeguards in the wake of Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

In 2022, the Legislature passed legislation designed to protect abortion providers, out-of-state patients, and insurers. The law also expanded access to contraceptives and helped ensure women who face grave circumstances after 24 weeks of pregnancy are not forced to leave Massachusetts to get access to reproductive health care services.

“This legislation is the first step in providing that protection at a time when more than 20 state legislatures have banned or severely restricted access to abortion and gender affirming care,” Democratic Rep. Kate Lipper-Garabedian said of the bill approved Wednesday by the Massachusetts House.

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