Before lawmakers vote on bills to change the state’s abortion laws, they must consider what problem they are trying to solve. Requiring waiting periods and the distribution of more information are clearly intended to make women reconsider ending a pregnancy.
Those who want there to be zero abortions say this is necessary. But given that abortions will be done — whether they are legal or not — adding extra hurdles only hurts women who are already struggling with an excruciatingly difficult decision.
LD 116 would require women to wait at least 24 hours from signing a consent form before getting an abortion. This bill operates under the assumption that women walk into a clinic, demand an abortion and it is performed on the spot. This is not how it works.
Most women have their pregnancy confirmed by a primary care physician or a gynecologist. These doctors often don’t perform abortions, so a referral to a clinic that does would be necessary. An appointment would then be scheduled with the clinic, likely not within 24 hours.
So, the bill is trying to solve a problem that rarely exists. Further, if the bill is construed to mean that a woman must make two visits to the clinic where she signs a consent form, this would require more travel and time away from work and family for women from the rural parts of the state. This is an unnecessary hurdle.
LD 924 also includes a 24-hour waiting period in addition to requiring a state-written brochure describing the risks of abortion, “scientifically accurate information” about the development stage of the fetus, and information on adoption.
A likely coldly written state brochure is not the answer to a question as emotionally complex as abortion. The Mabel Wadsworth clinic in Bangor gives an extensive workbook to women who come to the clinic seeking an abortion. Rather than steering women toward abortion, the book pushes women to answer difficult questions and includes an extensive section on having and raising children.
In one exercise in the book women are asked to draw a picture of themselves in a year and five years with and without the baby they are carrying. This emotionally wrenching exercise brings more clarity than a state-mandated brochure.
A third bill that will be considered by the Judiciary Committee this week, LD 1457, would require written and notarized parental or guardian consent before an abortion could be performed on a minor. While this seems like common sense, sadly not all families include caring and involved parents. What if the girl had been raped by her stepfather? What if she is kicked out of the house because she is pregnant? Current law favors informed consent from both the minor and a parent, but allows exceptions. In such cases, counseling — including discussion of carrying the pregnancy to term and raising the child or putting it up for adoption — is required before an abortion can be performed.
LD 1457 would allow girls to go to court to get an order allowing an abortion. Requiring a teenager to face a judge under such circumstances borders on cruelty.
These bills, along with pending legislation to restrict sex ed and contraception, are unnecessary and will move Maine backward.