Nearly two years after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, it seems that a new consequence unfolds with each passing week. The Dobbs decision has enabled states to enact abortion bans and, as we’ve recently seen, even threaten IVF care. Just Tuesday, the court heard arguments on a case that would curtail access to the abortion medication mifepristone. 

Massachusetts is not one of the almost two dozen states that have banned or restricted abortion since Roe was overturned. But if the court decides to restrict access to mifepristone, all providers in all states will be affected.

Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley joined GBH’s All Things Considered host Arun Rath on Wednesday to discuss the continued fallout from the Dobbs decision and its implications for Massachusetts. What follows is a lightly edited transcript.

Arun Rath: Let me get your first take on the oral arguments. It sounds like most of the judges appeared to be skeptical about the push to restrict access to the drug. Are you optimistic? Pessimistic?

Rep. Ayanna Pressley: Well, I’ll just be frank and say that I’ve grown tired of old white men on the far-right side of the aisle misleading the public. This is a coordinated attack to strip away our fundamental human rights. They’re not doctors.

It’s been exhausting, but I’m resolved as ever. I chair the Abortion Rights and Access Task Force under the Pro-Choice caucus. Anything in this space of litigation — I am on this amicus brief — legislation or mobilization, I’ve been co-leading those efforts in partnership with this movement, which just continues to grow.

But I want to be really clear about something here: Medication abortion is safe. It is routine. It is still legal in many states across the nation. What’s happening right now is an attempt to curtail access again by these far-right judges and anti-abortion extremists. It’s a threat to millions of people, including in states where abortion care is protected, like Massachusetts.

Rath: It’s extraordinary that this case even got to the Supreme Court — the questioning of the FDA, and under a very old and what was considered an obsolete act.

Pressley: Again, medication abortion is incredibly safe. It’s effective. Over half of abortions in the U.S. are done this way. In fact, we have decades of scientific and medical evidence to back up the safety and efficacy of mifepristone.

That’s what makes it really chilling — that we’ve arrived at this place where a partisan, ideological judge wrongly asserts that he knows better than medical experts at the FDA. The goal is to sow doubt and misinformation and restrict access to care.

Just to put this in context with a different scenario: Imagine if a judge overturned the FDA’s approval of a drug like Tylenol, something that’s routinely used as a part of medical care. We would call it out as an inappropriate overreach, and that’s exactly what’s going on here.

The Supreme Court must reject this politically motivated effort to interfere with the FDA’s approval processes and preserve access to mifepristone across the country.

Rath: If the court does come through and restrict access, what would that do here in Massachusetts? Are there ways to preserve access here?

Pressley: Again, this is part of a coordinated attack. I also want to underscore that there are other medications available. I want to make sure that people know that. There’s misoprostol: this is another way with which you can safely self-manage an abortion if mifepristone is not available.

We’ll continue working with advocates to spread this medically accurate information far and wide about how to get the care folks need. Abortion care is routine medical care, and it’s really cruel and inhumane for Republicans to tear health care away. They have sought to enlist this far-right, extremist agenda with co-conspirators — from the lower courts, all the way to the Supreme Court.

“Imagine if a judge overturned the FDA’s approval of a drug like Tylenol. ... We would call it out as an inappropriate overreach, and that’s exactly what’s going on here.”
Rep. Ayanna Pressley

Rath: Let’s talk more about that backdrop. You initially expressed a real weariness about this far-right supermajority on the Supreme Court. Sen. Elizabeth Warren thinks that it’s time to expand the Supreme Court. How do you feel about that?

Pressley: Well, I agree. I’m actually a part of a broader coalition — a national movement in partnership with leaders like Sen. Warren and Sen. Markey — called "the Just Majority" that goes around the country advocating for both court reform and also expansion. There should be a standard of ethics, and I do think we should be having a conversation about expansion, and even term limits.

[The Supreme Court] is imbalanced, and it continues to obstruct the will of the majority of the people. It’s deeply consequential — everything from affirmative action to obstructing executive action by the president on student debt cancellation and, of course, the Dobbs decision.

Rath: We could very easily spend our full time talking about the court, but while we’ve got you here, I’d like to ask you a few other questions.

Pressley: Have me back to do that!

Rath: Yeah, we absolutely will. Let’s put that on the calendar.

But while we have you here: something that came up recently, and I feel like it may have gotten lost in the headlines, and that's the funding for the Pryde LGBTQ+ senior housing [facility] in Boston that you, Sen. Warren and Sen. Markey are advancing. For people who missed this, tell us about this funding, why it was threatened and why it’s important.

Pressley: Community project funding — or CPF, what many commonly referred to as “earmarks” for decades — are opportunities returned through several funding cycles. They are critical investments in a community, and they’re my favorite sort of “marriage,” because they are community-driven projects that are endorsed and invested in by government.

Just to provide some more context here: There were some 2,600 total projects that were included in the appropriations bill, and Republicans targeted only three. All three of those were for LGBTQ causes.

And again, in this 118th Congress under a Republican majority, there’s been this legislated unrelenting anti-woman, LGBTQ, immigrant worker, undemocratic agenda. Even though these projects met all of the eligibility requirements, they were still denied.

And I want to talk about the project we’re specifically talking about here, which is the Pryde. The Pryde is an affordable housing project in Hyde Park that would serve LGBTQ seniors. This is an important issue that I’ve been working on since I was on the Boston City Council: so many elders who are LGBTQ, many of them were forced to re-closet themselves. They couldn’t live their lives honestly in order to age in community.

And so it’s so important that there are affordable housing options — especially given that one-third of LGBTQ+ seniors in the U.S. are living at or below the poverty line. Half of LGBTQ seniors in the country are not out. And so they need safe spaces, and they need affordable spaces. The Pryde will also have a public space that will serve as Boston’s sort of de-facto LGBTQ+ elder community center.

[Republicans] attempted to block this. There’s a real need for this housing. Thankfully, I have dedicated partners in the Senate who are just as committed to fighting for our seniors, and fighting for LGBTQ seniors. Together, we were able to get this funding back into the government spending bills and over the finish line.

And so there is a happy end here. But the fact that it was denied and there was an attempt to obstruct it at all is a very damning commentary on where we find ourselves.

Rath: With everything else that’s up on the table right now in Congress, I can’t imagine that was an easy fight to get that back in.

Pressley: But it was a fight worth taking on. We were exhaustive and nimble and did everything possible to get the Pryde over the finish line. There’s such a need — the cost of housing is skyrocketing. As I said, one-third of our LGBTQ+ seniors are living in poverty.

This project is going to help those LGBTQ+ seniors in the Massachusetts 7th [District] get the affordable housing and safe community space that they need, centering their dignity and humanity.

And then, finally, I would say, as the co-chair of the Task Force on Aging and Families, one of the most challenging things for many of our elders is isolation. We saw that during the pandemic, the impact of that. It’s so important that our elders are able to age with their community.