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Massachusetts warns patients over ‘unconscionable’ crisis pregnancy centers

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Massachusetts warns patients over ‘unconscionable’ crisis pregnancy centers


The Bay State has launched a new public awareness ad campaign aimed at warning pregnant patients to avoid so-called crisis pregnancy centers, which officials say use deception and fear to steer people away from an abortion.

Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Robbie Goldstein said the state hopes to inform residents about the dangers of “Anti-Abortion Centers,” which he said often disguise themselves as medical facilities even if they aren’t licensed to provide medical care and may use a veneer of professionalism to peddle false information about the supposed risks of available care options.

“Inside they may look like medical clinics, with staff wearing scrubs or lab coats, but most centers are not even licensed clinics nor are the staff that are usually there licensed medical providers,” he said. “These centers offer pregnancy testing, and many perform and read ultrasounds, but ultimately they deceive patients, plying them with pro-life pamphlets, religious information, and fliers about adoption resources and withholding information about comprehensive reproductive options.”

Goldstein, speaking Monday alongside U.S. Reps. Katherine Clark and Jake Auchincloss and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kate Walsh at Women’s Health Services in Brookline, said that — as a doctor — he finds the practices employed at these centers “unconscionable.”

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The untrained staff at these facilities, he said, use fear and “outright lies” to influence an abortion seeker’s decision, inventing possible injuries and warning of the supposed psychological effects of abortion without any basis in medical science. Patients are “bribed” with promises of baby clothes and diapers, he said, and shown misleading ultrasound images used to “shame or guilt” them into going forward with a pregnancy.

People of color, young patients, “and those who may not have the means to afford a child” are specifically targeted by these centers, Goldstein said.

“The tactics they employ to dissuade people from getting abortions are insidious and they are dangerous,” he said.

Clark, the House Minority Whip, said that anti-abortion activists are waging a “nationwide campaign of disinformation, one patient at a time.”

“These extremists are opening fake clinics, to lure in women at their most vulnerable, obstruct their right to choose the treatment that they want, and withhold healthcare that any real doctor would provide immediately. These are con artists posing as healthcare professionals. They are knowingly, and happily, misleading patients for the sake of their ideology,” she said.

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Auchincloss, who represents the district where the awareness campaign was launched, said that since the U.S. Supreme Court decided to overturn Roe v. Wade and the federal protection of abortion it provided, the prevalence of anti-abortion clinics has grown.

“Before the Supreme Court gutted Roe, the average American was 25 miles from an abortion provider. In 2023, post Roe, that distance became 86 miles. Nationally, abortion clinics are outpaced by ‘crisis pregnancy centers’ at a rate of three-to-one and there are currently 30 anti-abortion clinics in Massachusetts, and three in my district alone,” he said.

The pro-life Catholic Action League denounced the Healey Administration’s outreach efforts as defamation against pro-life centers, refuting the assertions made by Goldstein.

“Pregnancy care centers offer women compassionate alternatives to abortion. This latest campaign demonstrates the cynical hypocrisy of decades of rhetoric about ‘choice.’ It is now clear that for abortion proponents, only one choice is acceptable,” Catholic Action League Executive Director C. J. Doyle said in a statement.

The $1 million campaign is funded by the 2023 budget to run for the next several months, Goldstein said, and it will include ads in English and Spanish which went live Monday on social media, with ads on radio billboards, and transit to come. More information can be found at mass.gov/avoid-anti-abortion-centers.

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Massachusetts

Unemployment claims in Massachusetts increased last week

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Unemployment claims in Massachusetts increased last week


Initial filings for unemployment benefits in Massachusetts rose last week compared with the week prior, the U.S. Department of Labor said Thursday.

New jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs, increased to 4,830 in the week ending June 8, up from 4,506 the week before, the Labor Department said.

U.S. unemployment claims rose to 242,000 last week, up 13,000 claims from 229,000 the week prior on a seasonally adjusted basis.

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Puerto Rico saw the largest percentage increase in weekly claims, with claims jumping by 309.8%. North Dakota, meanwhile, saw the largest percentage drop in new claims, with claims dropping by 58.1%.

The USA TODAY Network is publishing localized versions of this story on its news sites across the country, generated with data from the U.S. Department of Labor’s weekly unemployment insurance claims report. 



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Massachusetts on verge of becoming second-to-last state to outlaw 'revenge porn'

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Massachusetts on verge of becoming second-to-last state to outlaw 'revenge porn'


BOSTON — A bill aimed at outlawing “revenge porn” has been approved by lawmakers in the Massachusetts House and Senate and shipped to Democratic Gov. Maura Healey, a move advocates say was long overdue.

If signed by Healey, the bill — which bars the sharing of explicit images or videos without the consent of those depicted in the videos — would leave South Carolina as the only state not to have a law specifically banning revenge porn.

Supports say the bill, which landed on Healey’s desk Thursday, would align Massachusetts with the other 48 states that have clear prohibitions on disseminating sexually explicit images and videos without the subject’s consent. It is a form of abuse that advocates say has grown increasingly common in the digital age, subjecting people to social and emotional harm often inflicted by former romantic partners.

The bill would make disseminating nude or partially nude photos of another person without their permission criminal harassment. Offenders would face up to two and a half years in prison and a fine of $10,000. On subsequent offenses, the punishment would increase to up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $15,000.

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“No person’s life should devolve into chaos because a private photo was shared without their permission, and no person should fear coercion or be threatened with the sharing of such a photo,” Senate President Karen Spilka said.

The bill explicitly states that even though a person might consent to the initial creation of an explicit image or video that doesn’t mean they are also agreeing that it can be distributed without their additional consent in the future.

The advent of artificial intelligence and deepfake technology in the creation of revenge porn has added to the concerns of lawmakers. Supporters said the bill opens the door to legislation further addressing the implications of the emerging technology.

Karissa Hand, an aide to Healey, said the governor, who was previously the state’s attorney general, “has long supported legislation to ban revenge porn and hold accountable those who would engage in abusive, coercive and deeply harmful behavior” and looks forward to reviewing any legislation that reaches her desk.

The legislation establishes a definition for coercive control to account for non-physical forms of abuse such as isolation, threatening harm toward a family member or pet, controlling or monitoring activities, damaging property, publishing sensitive information, and repeated legal action.

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Advocates describe coercive control as a pattern of deliberate behavior by an abuser that substantially restricts another person’s safety and autonomy.

By expanding the statute of limitation for domestic violence charges to 15 years, the bill would also give survivors a longer time to seek justice.

Under current law, minors who possess, purchase or share explicit photos of themselves or other minors are charged with violating child sexual abuse image laws and are required to register as sex offenders.

The bill would instead require the state attorney general to develop an educational diversion program to provide adolescents who engage in revenge porn with information about the consequences and life-altering effects caused by engaging in the behavior.

District attorneys would still have the authority to petition the court to bring criminal charges in extreme cases.

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Jane Doe Inc., the Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence, called passage of the bill in the Legislature “a milestone for survivors in Massachusetts.”

“Non-consensual sharing of intimate images impacts thousands of people in Massachusetts every year, and increases an individual’s likelihood of further sexual harm,” the group said in a written statement.

“This bill takes a thoughtful approach to addressing the problem – one that balances strong protections for survivors with a recognition that younger people who cause this harm often can and should benefit from educational diversion over prosecution,” the group added.



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23 sets of twins graduate from one Massachusetts middle school

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23 sets of twins graduate from one Massachusetts middle school


NEEDHAM, Mass. (AP) — Twenty-three sets of twins have graduated from a Massachusetts middle school, making up about 10% of the eighth-grade class.

The identical and fraternal twins graduated from Pollard Middle School in Needham, Massachusetts, on Wednesday. Another student, who is also a twin, graduated but her brother attends a different school, said principal Tamatha Bibbo.

It’s “quite unusual,” said Bibbo. “We typically have anywhere from five to 10 sets at most. Given our numbers, we have approximately 450 to 500 children in each grade so this was extraordinarily high.”

The school gave a special shout-out to the 23 sets of twins during the so-called “moving up” ceremony on Wednesday, she said. Twins account for around 3% of live births in the U.S., according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

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The Pollard Middle School graduates must all have completed up to 10 hours of service learning in their communities, and every year, the Needham Exchange Club offers five community service awards. For the first time this year, a set of twins — Lukas and Sameer Patel — won an award and a donation to their charity, Bibbo said.



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