Medicine /

Maine Sends Expanded Abortion Access Bill to Governor's Desk

The bill also removes criminal penalties for performing an abortion without being a licensed physician, physician assistant, or advanced practice registered nurse

Maine may expand its abortion access laws so that women can terminate a pregnancy at any stage if a doctor deems the procedure medically necessary.

The policy would revise Maine’s Reproductive Privacy Act, which was passed in 1993.

The current state law prohibits abortion once a fetus is considered to be viable outside the womb – approximately the 24th week of pregnancy. The law grants exceptions if the mother’s life is at risk.

LD 1619, titled “An Act to Improve Maine’s Reproductive Privacy Laws,“ was passed by the state Senate 20-11 on July 6 and by the House  74-72 on June 22.

The new policy would expand the conditions under which women could legally get an abortion, leaving the decision up to the doctor’s professional judgment. Any abortions must be reported to the Department of Health and Human Services with information about the age of the woman who underwent the procedure, the gestational age of the fetus, the method of abortion, and the date and time.

“The report containing the information and data required by this subsection must be transmitted by the health care provider to the department not later than 10 days following the end of the month in which the abortion is performed,” stated the policy.

The policy also removes the criminal penalties for “performing an abortion without being licensed as a physician, physician assistant or advanced practice registered nurse and for performing an abortion after viability of the fetus when it was not necessary for the preservation of the life or health of the mother.”

Maine Governor Janet Mills is expected to sign LD 1619, which she formally introduced in April.

“The legislation introduced today removes these inflexible limitations from law and, instead, states that the personal decision about whether to have an abortion later in pregnancy will be made by a woman in consultation with her doctor,” said Mills’ office in a press release, per the Portland Press Herald

Multiple medical and community organizations also backed the bill, including the Maine Medical Association, the Maine Council of Churches, the ACLU of Maine, the Maine Women’s Lobby, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund, per WABI.

According to the Guttmacher Institute:

In 2017, 2,040 abortions were provided in Maine, though not all abortions that occurred in Maine were provided to state residents: Some patients may have traveled from other states, and some Maine residents may have traveled to another state for an abortion. There was a … 7% decline in the abortion rate in Maine between 2014 and 2017, from 9.5 to 8.8 abortions per 1,000 women of reproductive age. Abortions in Maine represent 0.2% of all abortions in the United States.

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