AUGUSTA – A series of controversial bills regarding abortion and the rights of transgender people was voted down by a legislative panel on Friday, but will likely inspire passionate debate by the full Legislature.

A majority on the Judiciary Committee voted against three bills that would require women who seek abortions to wait 24 hours, read government-drafted literature outlining risks and, if they are minors, have written, notarized parental consent.

“I think young people need that 24 hours and that information to know what’s going to happen to their bodies,” said state Rep. Joan Nass, R-Acton, the committee’s House chairwoman.

Two of the measures were rejected 8-3; the bill to require the reading of a state-issued brochure before an abortion was rejected 7-4.

While supporters of the bills had said it is important for women to have time to think about the impact of their decisions and have access to key information, opponents argued that is already the case under Maine law.

“It seems to me, things are working fairly well now,” said Rep. Charlie Priest, D-Brunswick.

Another controversial measure, which would allow schools and businesses to require people to use public rest- rooms that coincide with their biological sex, rather than the gender with which they identify, was also voted down.

In a 7-4 vote, the committee decided to leave the issue to the Maine Human Rights Commission, which deals with it on a case-by-case basis when there are disputes.

So far, only two cases have emerged, one involving a student at a school in Orono and one involving a patron at Denny’s Restaurant in Auburn.

Two other proposals, aimed at requiring parental consent for minors to receive treatment for mental health or substance abuse or be issued prescriptions, were voted down.

Under current law, minors can be issued prescriptions without parental consent only for treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, substance abuse treatment or contraceptives.

All of the proposals received at least one vote of support, which means they will be scheduled for debate by the full Legislature.

Shenna Bellows, executive director of the Maine Civil Liberties Union, which lobbied against all of the bills, said she is optimistic that the committee’s majority opposition will carry over to the House and Senate.

“I expect the floor debates will be passionate, but the sense of this committee, I think, will prevail on the floor,” she said. “It’s time to focus on economic issues, not social (issues) that are by nature divisive, and Maine laws seem to be working.”

MaineToday State House Writer Rebekah Metzler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at:

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