Will Maine legislators stand with Maine women?

Will Maine legislators stand with Maine women?

Last week, the Maine House of Representatives voted 84-65 to defeat LD 1312, a so-called Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers, or “TRAP” bill, which would restrict access to abortion care in Maine. Bills like this one have become part of an increasingly common legislative strategy to force health centers to close and, consequently, place access to legal, safe abortions increasingly out of reach for many women.

The reality is that abortion is an incredibly safe procedure that is routinely provided in doctor’s offices and women’s health centers without complications, which is why the state’s leading medical associations oppose TRAP measures like Sanderson’s.

This type of legislation gained national attention after a protracted legislative battle in Texas (in which future gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis filibustered on the Senate floor for 11 hours) saw the passage of a TRAP law that forced the immediate closure of 13 health centers across the state. That number has since risen to 32 and means that many women in the state now must travel over 200 miles to seek access to a safe abortion.

In Maine, LD 1312, sponsored by Representative Deb Sanderson (R- Chelsea), grants the Department of Health and Human Services sweeping authority to drafting rules and regulations targeting three women’s health care providers, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, Maine Family Planning and Mabel Wadsworth Women’s Health Center, while exempting all physicians who make abortion available to their patients.

As Dr. Peter Manning, Maine section chair of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, wrote in the Portland Press Herald:

“This is just an attempt to restrict access to safe, legal abortion, through the creation of rules and regulations just like legislatures have done in Texas, Alabama and Mississippi – over the objections of medical experts. Maine already provides oversight of all abortion providers, regardless of where they practice, via a combination of existing laws and physician licensure and reporting, which empowers the state to investigate any complaints.”

Since Tea Party-backed candidates swept into office across the country in 2010, states have seen an unprecedented number of restrictive anti-abortion bills introduced, including in Maine. LD 1312 is not the only bill on the legislative docket this year that seeks to restrict the reproductive rights for Maine women. LD 83 would roll back Maine’s Adult Involvement Law and require written consent from a parent or judge before getting an abortion.

There are times when some teens can’t safely talk to their parents about abortion and, under Maine’s current law, teens who cannot talk to their parents about abortion can involve an approved counselor such as a psychiatrist, social worker, nurse, or guidance counselor. Maine’s current law is a model for the country and repealing it and instead placing more barriers in front of women will put Maine’s most vulnerable teens in dangerous situations.

Rather than take a constructive approach and pass proactive policies that enhance women’s economic security by expanding access to women’s health care, including birth control and abortion, anti-choice activists continue to work to limit abortion services or criminalize pregnant and parenting women. LD 1312 and LD 83 are slated to be voted on in the Republican-controlled Senate in the next few days. You can call your Senator to tell them to stand with Maine women and reject these anti-choice bills at 1-877-240-0271.

Photo: reproductive freedom rally outside the State House, courtesy Maine Family Planning


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