Abortion Access Expanded On Nantucket With Grant To Health Imperatives

Jason Graziadei •

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Access to abortion and reproductive healthcare on Nantucket is set to be expanded following Governor Charlie Baker’s announcement of $4.1 million in state grants to community-based organizations, including Health Imperatives, which has a facility on the island.

Nantucket’s state representatives, including state Senator Julian Cyr and Representative Dylan Fernandes, both trumpeted the grant funding as a significant victory for those who have been fighting for access to abortion on Cape Cod and the islands.

Julia Kehoe, president and CEO of Health Imperatives, described how the money will allow her organization to expand services at its seven clinics, including the Nantucket office in Gouin Village, off Vesper lane.

“With this new grant, we can integrate medication abortion in all seven of our clinics,” Kehoe said. “We’ll be able to start providing the service in July. After receiving the grant, it will take the next several months to develop the infrastructure - training staff, getting the medical equipment that’s necessary, and enhancing our security systems.”

Kehoe emphasized that the expanded access to abortion services on Nantucket was among the ways Health Imperatives is attempting to bring equity to reproductive health care for women on Cape Cod and the islands.

“Health Imperatives regularly looks at what the gaps are and the service delivery system in each community we serve,” Kehoe said. “Abortion care is just one gap in the sexual and reproductive healthcare system, and it’s one piece of economic empowerment for women and girls of color. We’re seeing increasing health disparities and economic disparities, and we’re excited to address one of those, but we're committed to do everything we can to ensure people have equal access to care, and the tools necessary for safety and security and health.”

Fernandes and Cyr, who have been vocal about the gaps in access to abortion on the Cape and islands since they were elected, both talked about the significance of the grant funding from the state.

“This has been a years-long effort and I am so grateful for the incredible leadership team at Healthcare Imperatives who worked to make this happen and the advocates across the region who fought for it,” Fernandes said. “We will not waver in upholding a women’s right to abortion and we will continue to act as a safe haven for women trapped in right-wing states.”

Cyr described it as “a long sought victory for reproductive rights and access on the Cape and Islands.”

While both Cyr and Fernandes, along with Kehoe, asserted in their statements that the funding was creating access to abortion on Nantucket that previously did not exist, abortion services have previously been available at Nantucket Cottage Hospital.

“The hospital provides a range of women’s health services which may include pregnancy termination,” according to a statement issued by a Nantucket Cottage Hospital spokesperson. “These sensitive decisions, including transfer options, referrals, counseling support, and follow-up care, are made between the patient and their doctor and are dependent on each patient’s clinical presentation and social situation.”

While the hospital has not formally publicized that those services have been available, patients have had access to abortion services on the island for some time.

Still, Cyr said, many people have been under the impression that access to abortion was non-existent on Nantucket, and "more access is good and will align with existing Health Imperatives services on-island."

Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade in June, states like Massachusetts - where abortion is still legal under state law - have moved to protect abortion rights and expand access. Back in July, Gov. Baker signed legislation to further protect access to reproductive health care services in Massachusetts.

In announcing the new grants to expand abortion access through community organizations this week, Baker's Secretary of Health and Human Services, Marylou Sudders, stated: “Today’s announcement is one more step in affirming this Administration’s commitment to ensuring access to reproductive health care, including access to the full spectrum of reproductive health services. These funds help fulfill that commitment by expanding access to timely and safe reproductive health care that meets the needs of individuals and families.”

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