Maine House rejects series of abortion bills

Posted June 07, 2011, at 6:37 p.m.
Last modified June 07, 2011, at 11:45 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine House rejected three bills to add new restrictions on abortions after hours of somber debate Tuesday night, leaving the prospects for passage of the legislation in doubt.

A bill requiring that certain information be provided to a woman seeking an abortion, including the risks of the procedure and the father’s liability for support, was defeated 88-57.

Representatives rejected a bill, by an 81-63 vote, requiring a 24-hour wait before having an abortion from the time a woman gives her written consent. The House also turned down by an 80-63 vote a third bill that would have strengthened adult consent requirements in cases in which an abortion is planned for a minor or incapacitated person.

The bills still face a Senate vote, but the decisive House votes leaves little hope they will pass.

“I find this to be really tough stuff, serious stuff,” Rep. David Burns, R-Whiting, said during the debate.

Lawmakers calling for the bills’ defeat said Maine’s informed consent and adult consent laws were working well and need not be bolstered. Opponents argued that the standing laws leave room for improvement.

“This is very reasonable legislation,” said Rep. Dale Crafts, R-Lisbon, speaking in favor of the 24-hour wait bill.

While some said the proposals merely tweaked Maine’s existing laws, others argued the measures got to the core issue of preventing abortions.

Augusta Republican Rep. Karen Foster urged representatives: “Let’s not fail in our responsibility to the unborn.”

Maine law requires consent of a parent or guardian, an adult family member, a judge or a counselor before a girl under 18 can get an abortion. Minors represent only a small percentage of those seeking abortions, and a smaller percentage than most states, opponents of the bills said.

Rep. Sharon Treat, D-Hallowell, said women already carefully weigh their decisions on whether to have an abortion.

“These decisions are very difficult decisions to make. They are not taken lightly,” said Treat. “This is truly unnecessary legislation.”

Rep. Charles Priest, D-Brunswick, also said the bills are unnecessary and he objected to the requirement in one to have the state government write a brochure that contains certain information. Brochures prepared by other states that require them contain scientifically inaccurate information, Priest said. He added that the informed consent bill interfered with a woman’s right to have an abortion and with doctor-patient relationships.

Earlier, the House voted down a bill to outlaw violence against a fetus, a measure that was seen by opponents as an assault on abortion rights. Representatives’ 81-66 vote came a day after the Senate voted 18-15 against it.

The bill sought to create new crimes of murder, felony murder, manslaughter, assault, aggravated assault and elevated aggravated assault against a fetus. The House vote leaves it won’t be voted on again this legislative session.

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