AUGUSTA – One of the first bills introduced into the new Democrat controlled Maine Legislature is a proposal to begin providing taxpayer funds to pay for abortions for Maine’s Medicaid recipients.
Rep. Lois Reckitt of South Portland, a Democrat just starting her second term in the Maine House of Representatives, has introduced the bill, which is among the first batch of 25 bills in the Legislature’s list of new proposals.
Rep. Reckitt is introducing the bill just as Janet Mills begins the work to deliver on one of her campaign promises to expand Medicaid benefits to an additional 70,000 people.
Because the federal government forbids the use of federal dollars to be used to pay for abortions under the Hyde Amendment, Rep. Reckitt’s proposal to expand Medicaid benefits to pay for abortions would not qualify for the matching federal funds that would be used to pay for the federal Medicaid expansion. Instead it would need to be funded with 100% Maine taxpayer dollars
The bill is so far just a title with legislative document number in the early days of the Maine Legislature, but is certain to draw interest and public comment from pro-life and pro-abortion groups.
Sponsors of LD 20 “An Act To Provide Coverage for Abortion Services for MaineCare Members”
(D – South Portland) – Sponsor
(D – Scarborough) – Cosponsor
(D – Saco) – Cosponsor
Beebe-Center (D – Rockland) – Cosponsor
(D – Windham) – Cosponsor
(D – Cape Elizabeth) – Cosponsor
Farnsworth (D – Portland) – Cosponsor
Foley (D – Biddeford) – Cosponsor
Joyce McCreight (D – Harpswell) – Cosponsor
In 2018, the
ACLU of Maine argued on behalf of three Maine abortion providers before the
Maine Supreme Court that the state of Maine should be required to pay for
abortions, claiming that not using state taxpayer funds to pay for abortions
offered no benefit to the state and that using taxpayer funds to pay for
abortions did provide a benefit.
also said that not providing taxpayer funded abortions impeded a woman’s right
to choose to have an abortion.
A deputy from Attorney General Janet Mills’ office represented DHHS in the lawsuit defending the state’s position that it should not use taxpayer funds to pay for abortions, but it is not clear if her personal position differed from her office’s position on the suit.
It is unclear if Janet Mills will support Reckitt’s bill at this juncture, but as Attorney General, Mills drew criticism for introducing legislation to loosen abortion restrictions and licensing by allowing nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants to perform abortions.
Some legislators said Mills’ introduction of the bill was a political attempt to strengthen her pro-abortion bona fides as she launched her campaign for Governor, but Mills, citing a declining number of abortions in Maine, said more providers were needed to provide abortions. Medical policy experts disagreed however, saying the decline in abortions was due to wider availability of birth control.
Opponents of Mills’ proposal said abortions should only be provided by qualified doctors, and that loosening the restrictions would put women at greater risk of medical complications.