*By Anastasia Pumphrey*
*correction from hard copy*
The Massachusetts American Civil Liberties chapter has come out with a body of bills called the Freedom Agenda to push back against the Trump administration on issues ranging from immigration, contraceptive access and privacy, a volunteer coordinator for the group told a group gathered at Stonehill College recently.
Olivia Santoro, the coordinator, said the goal of the Freedom Agenda is “to protect Massachusetts residents from the new threats of the Trump administration… and to make sure that we’re protecting immigrants, fixing our criminal justice system, advancing our privacy protections, and safeguarding contraceptive access.”
She said many local policies, such as requiring police to wear body cameras on their uniforms and towns needing approval to purchase security items like a “sting ray,” a device that can access any data from anyone’s phone or internet use, will be a result of the Freedom Agenda efforts.
Santoro said a large part of the Freedom Agenda’s goals centers around women’s access to reproductive healthcare, such as contraceptives and abortions.
She referenced a 2016 Massachusetts bill that allowed care such as STI testing or domestic abuse counselling to remain confidential, or not reported to the patient’s parents or spouse, no matter the age of the patient, to be as a contributing factor in moving the legislation towards what the ACLU has in mind.
She said that contraceptive access is a crucial part of healthcare and that it is the job of the ACLU to defend its accessibility.
“We at the ACLU believe that access to contraception should not be dependent on how much money you have. We should all be able to have access to that,” she said.
Santoro also said the ACLU will be doing anything it can to protect safe access to abortion under the Trump Administration by challenging efforts to restrict the procedure.
. She said some of these laws, particularly ones in southern states like Texas, Alabama, and Mississippi, are called TRAP Laws – or Targeted Regulation of Abortion Provider laws.
She said it “put unfair regulations on abortion providers, regulations that are not necessarily increasing safety or are not necessarily medically necessary.”
Santoro said the ACLU defends civil rights and civil liberties by taking cases to court and, when needed, moving to change legislature.
She said there is a chapter of the ACLU in all 50 states, but that Massachusetts is particularly well-endowed with its resources.
“We’re really fortunate here in Massachusetts specifically because a lot of the ACLU chapters…only have a small team of lawyers who are working in the courts. But we… have a really robust program here,” Santoro said.
She said that the ACLU handles political matters through the court system and through lobbying for changes in legislature, like they did in the famous 1973 women’s reproductive freedom case, Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortions on a national level.
Santoro said the ACLU takes about five to 10 percent of the cases that are brought to them “We want to take on cases we can use to set precedents for the future,” Santoro said. “We want to make the most change we can.”