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Abortions without doctors bill to get vote in Maine House, Mills admin says current law “not based on science”

Speaker Sara Gideon (D – Freeport) is sponsoring a bill that would deregulate abortions in Maine to allow non-physicians to perform the procedure. The bill is presented with Governor Janet Mills’ support and has been scheduled for a vote Tuesday, May 21.

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.

Here we go again. LD 1261 will allow medical professionals other than doctors to perform abortions in Maine. This bill…

Posted by Christian Civic League of Maine on Friday, May 17, 2019

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.

Governor Mills’ official statement made no mention of legalizing surgical abortions by non-physicians, only referencing medication-administered abortions.

“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.

Read Also: Safe? Maine bill would legalize abortions without doctors

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Senior Policy Advisor Bethany Beausang told the committee, “Maine’s law limiting abortion care to physicians only is outdated and not based on science.”

The 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.

In written 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 a practicing OB-GYN for the past 30 years, I have 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 for.”

Dr. Andrews urged the committee not to support the bill, “For the safety of women in Maine I recommend voting against this bill.”

Lawmakers testifying on the bill were also split.

“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 to perform an abortion,” said Senator Cathy Breen, a Democrat from Falmouth.

“Many times I have heard pro-abortion advocates say that 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.

The proposal 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 Northern California.

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.

You can read the actual bill that will be voted on by clicking here.

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.

Read Also: Maine Senate approves taxpayer funded abortion bill in close vote

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