AUGUSTA – Maine House Democrats today voted along party lines to approve a bill that would allow abortions to be performed by medical professionals other than doctors.
The other, LD 1261, would expand access to abortions by allowing non-physicians, such as physician’s assistants and advanced practice registered nurse to perform the procedures, including surgical procedures.
The vote on deregulating abortions fell mostly along party lines, with a five Democrats breaking ranks to vote with all Republicans in opposition to the bill. Those Democrat Representatives were John Martin of Eagle Lake, Cathy Nadeau of Winslow, Steve Stanley of Medway, Archie Verow of Brewer and Bruce White of Waterville.
No Republicans voted in favor of the bill.
Sixteen members of the Maine House were absent for the vote, with another two being marked as “excused.” Most of the Representatives who were absent were Democrats.
The bill is sponsored by House Speaker Sara Gideon at the request of Governor Janet Mills.
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 those individuals to perform other types of abortion procedures as well.
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Senior Policy Advisor Bethany Beausang told the committee, “Maine’s law limiting abortion care to physicians only is outdated and not based on science.”
Abortion has become a hot topic under the Mills administration, with efforts to expand the procedure, such as in LD 1261, along with a bill to provide taxpayer funded abortions winning approval from the Democrat majority.
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 bill cite 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-determined 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.
The bill will require additional votes of approval in the Maine House and Senate before they can be sent to Governor Janet Mills for her signature.