[Speaker Sara Gideon, sponsor of LD 1261, speaks at the press event.]
Six new reproductive health laws will take effect on Thursday -- including two protecting an expanding access to abortion in Maine. Reproductive rights advocates and legislative leaders gathered today to celebrate this critical step forward in health care.
“Maine is a state where access to reproductive and sexual health care is essential to living a healthy, successful life,” said Nicole Clegg, Senior Vice President of Public Affairs for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. “This year, Maine lawmakers sent a clear message that access to quality, affordable sexual and reproductive health care, including abortion, is critical. These rights are non-negotiable.”
The Trump-Pence administration continues to restrict access to sexual and reproductive health care through legislation, the courts, and agency rulemaking and the administration continues to empower states to undermine access to abortion.
“We started this year with the clear understanding that in order to defend ourselves against the systematic rollback of our rights, the constant threats to defund and the never-ending court battles, we needed to stand up and stand out in Maine,” said Speaker Sara Gideon, whose leadership was instrumental in passing the new laws. “I’m proud of the progress we have made and will continue to work to make women’s healthcare and family planning more affordable and more accessible.”
LD 820 sponsored by Rep Jay McCreight requires private and public (MaineCare/Medicaid) insurance to cover abortion if they also cover prenatal care.
“We refuse to allow the intrusion of highly discriminatory and artificial barriers that are specifically designed to take away the right to make our own very personal health care decisions,” said Rep. McCreight. “Denying coverage isn’t just discriminatory, it is truly harmful and causes lasting consequences.”
LD 1261 sponsored by Speaker Sara Gideon, LD 37 sponsored by Rep. Mo Terry, and LD 494 sponsored by Senator Linda Sanborn all updated out of date laws that limited access to sexual and reproductive health care, including abortion.
“Letting go of outdated laws will improve access to care for all Mainers, especially college students, people in rural areas, and other Mainers already facing barriers to care,” said Rep. Mo Terry.
LD 37 will allow the sale of nonprescription drugs, including Emergency Contraception, in vending machines, LD 1261 ends the ban on qualified, trained Advanced Practice Clinicians (like nurse practitioners) providing abortion care to their patients, and LD 494 updates Maine’s family planning laws.
“As Maine improves access to health care, it’s important that we have laws that reflect best practices and the real, lived experiences of Maine people. Political rhetoric should never govern health policy,” said Doctor and Senator Linda Sanborn. “Maine is once again leading the way to a world with more affordable and accessible health care. These new laws will help Mainers and I am committed to continuing to support policies that protect and expand access to vital, high-quality health care -- including sexual and reproductive care.”
An April poll found that more than three in four Mainers (76%) believe women should be able to make their own medical decisions about abortion without politicians and insurance companies denying care. Indeed, more than seven in ten Mainers believe politicians should not be allowed to deny a woman’s health coverage for abortion just because she’s poor (74%).
A majority of voters say that if a woman has decided to have an abortion the experience should be supportive (83%), affordable (79%), available in her community (79%), without added burdens (76%), and covered by her insurance (70%).
“Whether a patient decides to become pregnant, to continue a pregnancy, or to seek abortion care, they should have access to quality care from a provider in their community,” said Julie Jenkins, a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner with Maine Family Planning. “[Ending the APC ban] combined with Maine’s new law guaranteeing public and private insurance coverage of abortion care...will make a real difference for people who are struggling to make ends meet or who simply don’t need any additional hurdles thrown in their way as they consider personal healthcare decisions.”
Women with low incomes face significant disparities when it comes to reproductive health. Compared with women with higher-incomes, poorer women’s rate of unintended pregnancy is five times as high and their unplanned birth rate is two to six times as high. One in four Medicaid-qualified women who seek an abortion is forced to carry her pregnancy to term because of cost and women who are forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term are more likely to fall into poverty within a year.
After decades of discrimination, Maine is now on the right side of history – protecting access to abortion care for all, no matter how much money you have, where you live, or what type of insurance you have,” said Andrea Irwin, Executive Director of Mabel Wadsworth Health Center.
The six new laws will:
- Guarantee private and public (MaineCare/Medicaid) insurance coverage of abortion (LD 820 sponsored by Rep Jay McCreight)
- Allow trained and qualified Advanced Practice Clinicians to provide abortion care (LD 1261 sponsored by Speaker Sara Gideon)
- Make nonprescription drugs including Emergency Contraception available in vending machines (LD 37 sponsored by Rep Mo Terry )
- Strengthen minors’ access to sexual and reproductive health care, including prenatal care (LD 494 sponsored by Senator Linda Sanborn)
- Increase access to the Limited Family Planning Benefit program (LD 78 sponsored by Rep. Jay McCreight)
- Protect providers’ privacy (LD 1580 sponsored by House Majority Leader Matt Moonen)