Safe? Maine bill would legalize abortions without doctors

Speaker Sara Gideon (far left) poses with two lawmakers who would later sponsor her bill to allow non-physicians to perform abortions in Maine. The bill is a ‘Governor’s Bill’ mirroring a proposal Governor Janet Mills (right) proposed in 2018 as Attorney General.

AUGUSTA – Speaker Sara Gideon is sponsoring what is known as a “Governor’s Bill” to deregulate abortions in Maine so the procedures could legally be performed without a physician.

The bill, numbered LD 1261, does not have any public hearings scheduled as of yet, but it has nine cosponsors in the Maine Legislature, all Democrats. It is likely to be referred to the Legislature’s Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee today.

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.

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.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, 42 states require abortions to be performed by a licensed physician.

The other sponsors of Speaker Gideon’s bill “An Act To Authorize Certain Health Care Professionals To Perform Abortions” are:

Senator Cathy Breen (D- Cumberland)

Representative Heidi Brooks (D – Lewiston)

Senator Geoff Gratwick (D – Penobscot)

Representative Patricia Hymanson (D – York)

Rep. Joyce McCreight (D – Harpswell)

Representative Anne Perry (D – Calais)

Senator Heather Sanborn (D – Cumberland)

Senator Linda Sanborn (D – Cumberland)

Senator Eloise Vitelli (D – Sagadahoc)

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