Supreme Court ruling protects abortion rights in Maine

Supreme Court ruling protects abortion rights in Maine

A ruling by the Supreme Court on Monday striking down abortion restrictions in Texas is also good news for Mainers’ access to safe, legal abortions, according to local women’s health advocates.

“Today’s landmark decision is a clear victory for women seeking abortion across the nation,” said Andrea Irwin, executive director of Maine Wadsworth Women’s Health Center, following the ruling. “We are proud to stand with Whole Woman’s Health and others who bravely fought against these sham laws to ensure women have access to the health care they need. We know there is much more work to be done, but for today, justice has prevailed and we celebrate this mighty win for women’s health.”

At issue in the case was a 2013 law that threatened to severely restrict access to abortion services across Texas by requiring onerous and medically-unnecessary regulatory hurdles. The restrictions, which state lawmakers claimed were in the interest of patient health and safety, forced abortion service providers across the state to close their doors.

“The intent of the Texas law was never about making women safer; it was meant to restrict access safe, legal abortion. In doing so, the law would have forced millions of women to drive over a hundred miles to receive essential reproductive health care. I’m relieved the justices put a stop to it, overturning these unjust and unnecessary restrictions,” said Maine Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, who had signed an amicus brief submitted to the court in opposition to the law. “More than just Texas, this decision tells states across the country that similarly restrictive laws will not stand.  This is a huge victory for women’s health and rights.”

Last year, the Maine legislature defeated LD 1312, which sought to give sweeping authority to the Department of Health and Human Services to draft “major substantive rules” to regulate abortion providers, leaving the details up to the LePage administration. The bill was an attempt to restrict access to safe, legal abortion, through the creation of targeted regulations of abortion providers (TRAP) similar to those involved in the Texas case as well as laws passed in Alabama, and Mississippi. The legislation was met with strong opposition from the medical community and failed to pass.

The Supreme Court ruling means that similar legislative attempts in Maine will be even less likely to succeed in the future.

“Today is a great day,” said Nicole Clegg, vice president of public policy for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. “This is a first step – the Supreme Court made it clear that politicians cannot pass laws to block access to safe, legal abortion. Yet today’s victory does not undo the past five years of damage and the hundreds of restrictions already written into law. No one should be punished for receiving or providing essential medical care. We will continue to fight restrictions on safe, legal abortion on behalf of our patients in Maine. We will not be punished, and we will not go back.”

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