AUGUSTA – A bill sponsored by Speaker Sara Gideon (D – Freeport) that would deregulate abortions, allowing them to be performed in Maine without a doctor present will have a vote in the Maine House of Representatives this week. The bill, L.D. 1261, is a “Governor’s Bill” presented with the support of Governor Janet Mills.
The Maine Christian Civic League broke the news about the upcoming vote in a statement on Facebook.
When they initially announced the bill, Governor Mills and Speaker Gideon tried to frame the bill as just allowing some medical professionals who are not physicians to provide medication which would terminate pregnancies, but a close reading of the bill shows that it will also legalize them to perform other types of abortion procedures as well.
“Allowing advanced nurse practitioners and physician assistants to perform medication-administered abortions, which are already permitted in other states, will ensure Maine women, especially in rural areas of our state, can access reproductive health care services,” said Mills.
Testifying on behalf of Mills before the Legislature’s Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee, her Senior Policy Advisor Bethany Beausang told the committee, “Maine’s law limiting abortion care to physicians only is outdated and not based on science.”
difference between whether the bill allows surgical abortions or only
medication-administered abortions is critical, because supporters of the bill
continue to cite safety studies that rely on data from abortions provided
through medication to support the bill.
testimony to the Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee through
Rep. Heidi Sampson, Dr. Kevin Andrews, an OB-GYN who has been practicing in
Maine for 30 years told the committee, “Concerning
LD 1261, as
OB-GYN for the
past 30 years,
strong reservations about
this bill. Surgical
abortions, which this
bill allows for,
requires an expertise
that l do
not believe non-physicians
are adequately prepared
Dr. Andrews urged the committee not to
support the bill, “For the safety of
women in Maine
voting against this
Lawmakers testifying on the bill were
“Ultimately, this is
about a woman’s
choice to make
what is often
a very difficult
and deeply personal
decision without lawmakers
intervening. Beyond a
certain threshold, the
state should not
decide whom a
woman may or
may not choose
said Senator Cathy Breen, a Democrat from Falmouth.
heard pro-abortion advocates
they want abortions
to be safe.
Expanding who is
allowed to perform
the abortion of
a baby does
not expand the
safely of the
procedure,” said Senator Stacey
Guerin, a Republican from Glenburn.
The bill mirrors
a proposal that sparked controversy when it was put forward by Governor Janet
Mills as Attorney General in 2018. That bill died when the 128th
Maine Legislature adjourned.
would strike the word “physician” and phrase “attending physician” from the law
and replace it with “health care professional”, which the proposal defines as a
physician assistant or advanced practice registered nurse.
The proposal also amends Maine’s informed consent for abortions law for adults and minors, effectively allowing minors to have abortions performed without a physician so long as they receive the same information they would have received from a physician, but still without notifying that minor’s parents or guardians.
In 2018, Mills
cited a ‘lack of access to abortions’ as a significant problem she sought to
correct, but numerous groups with varying perspectives on the issue of
abortion, and health care studies indicate that the decline in abortion rates
in Maine is largely attributable to better socio-economic conditions and
improved access to birth control and contraception.
Opponents of the
previous bill cited the safety of women seeking the procedure as a top concern.
A 2013 study
conducted in California and published by the National Institute of Health
showed that some abortion procedures performed by non-physicians were twice as
likely to result in a complication than those performed by a physician, with
1.8% of patients of non-physicians experiencing complications, versus .9% of
patients of physicians experiencing similar complications.
Because of the
study’s design, however, the authors of the study said the results were
‘clinically equivalent’. The study used a ‘noninferiority model’ that allowed a
2% acceptable risk difference, so although more than twice as many
complications arose from non-physicians performing the procedures, the
additional complications did not meet the pre-set threshold set by the study,
which was conducted at Planned Parenthood Clinics and Kaiser Permanente in
According to the Guttmacher Institute, 42 states require abortions to be performed by a licensed physician. Ahead of this vote, the Maine House has already voted to provide taxpayer funded abortions in Maine, and to mandate all private health insurance plans in Maine must cover abortions.