AUGUSTA, Maine — More than 20 female lawmakers got a late start to floor sessions Thursday in the Maine House and Senate because they participated in a news conference expressing opposition to three proposed bills that they say would erode reproductive rights and limit women’s access to health care. Republicans sponsored all three pieces of legislation.
Four Democratic legislators — Sen. Linda Valentino of Saco, Sen. Emily Cain of Orono, Rep. Jennifer DeChant of Bath and Rep. Megan Rochelo of Biddeford — spoke against the three bills.
One bill, LD 760, An Act Regarding Informed Consent for an Abortion, sponsored by Rep. Ellie Espling, R-New Gloucester, would expand upon the information physicians must provide when a woman consults with them about abortion. A description of the procedure, the performing physician’s name and “medical benefits for the woman during and after pregnancy if the woman carries the fetus to term” are some of the new information that would be required.
The Maine Choice Coalition opposes the bill because the additional information it would require physicians to provide “has the sole intent to shame, judge and make a woman change her mind,” according to a release from the organization.
A second bill, LD 1339, sponsored by Rep. Paul Davis, R-Sangerville, would require parental consent before a minor or incapacitated person could have an abortion, except in limited and clearly defined circumstances. Opponents of the bill argue that Maine’s current law provides adequate protection for minors and that requiring parental consent could endanger young women who might have experienced abuse or family violence.
Both bills repeat past failed efforts to alter Maine’s abortion laws, a fact that caused Valentino to express frustration that the Maine Legislature must keep debating anti-abortion bills 40 years after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.
During Thursday’s news conference, Shenna Bellows, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine and a member of the Maine Choice Coalition, said a third bill, LD 1193, would “completely undermine Roe v. Wade by creating separate legal status for a fetus, separating a mother from fetus.”
However, the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Amy Volk, R-Scarborough, said that was not her intent in submitting the bill. Volk told the BDN that she’s disappointed the Maine Choice Coalition “misconstrued the purpose of my bill,” which she called an attempt to align Maine law with that of other states in allowing parents to seek compensation through civil legal action for the wrongful death of a fetus that has reached the 12th week of gestation.
“The bill does not assign personhood,” Volk said, addressing a concern raised by more expansive legislation proposed in other states. She asserted that her bill contains language that prevents it from applying to mothers and physicians who perform abortions.
Opponents argued that Volk’s bill would, for the first time, establish in Maine law that a fetus is viable at 12 weeks. They also interpret LD 1193 to allow wrongful death suits against abortion providers in some cases.
Overall, the legislators and coalition members who gathered Thursday agreed that the three bills represent unnecessary intrusions into Maine women’s lives.
“All health care decisions should be between a woman and her doctor — not between a woman, her doctor and legislators in Augusta,” Cain said. “Women can be trusted to make the decisions that are best for them and their families.”
Hearings on all three bills are scheduled for March 16 before the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee, which Valentino co-chairs.