June 8, 2011

Maine House votes against stricter new abortion rules

The bills would require parental consent for minors, a waiting period and review of a brochure.

By Rebekah Metzler rmetzler@mainetoday.com
MaineToday Media State House Writer

AUGUSTA — In a series of initial votes Tuesday evening, a majority of lawmakers in the House opposed bills that would require women who seek abortions to wait 24 hours and read state-issued information about the procedure, and require minors to get parental consent.


Read bills and follow their progress by clicking here for a link to the Legislature's website and typing in the abortion-related bills' numbers, 116, 924 and 1456.


Earlier in the day, the House voted 81-66 against L.D. 1463, which would have created new crimes, such as murder and assault, against "unborn children." The rejection followed a similar vote in the Senate, so the legislation is dead.

Lawmakers debated the other three measures for hours Tuesday. The bills, which have not yet been considered by the Senate, will be scheduled for votes in the coming days.

Rep. Tyler Clark, R-Easton, who sponsored L.D. 116, a bill to require a 24-hour waiting period, said he is not trying to end a woman's right to choose.

"I have no intention of stopping abortions, because it's not within our power," he said.

Rep. Dale Crafts, R-Lisbon, said, "What's wrong with giving it some time to think about it, maybe to talk to somebody?"

The House voted 81-63 against the bill.

The House voted 88-57 against L.D. 924, sponsored by Rep. Eleanor Espling, R-New Gloucester, which would require any woman who seeks an abortion to wait 24 hours and read a brochure drafted by the state government.

Some opponents of the measures argued that Maine already has an effective informed-consent law, which requires doctors to provide certain information to patients before performing abortions. Others said a mandated waiting period would be an example of government overstepping its role.

"The fact that government is the one that is making this mandate, they are taking away that right to choose, no matter how long it takes a woman to decide what is best for her," said Rep. Kerri Prescott, R-Topsham. "The fact that government is the one making this choice is something that I cannot support."

Crafts, who sponsored L.D. 1457, offered a heartfelt case for the bill, which would require parental consent for girls younger than 18 to have abortions. "Please don't disenfranchise the dad that loves his children," he said.

But opponents said Maine's current law – which requires minors to get consent from adults, but not necessarily their parents – is working well. It allows a minor who cannot or chooses not to get consent from her parents to do so through a trusted family member, a judge or an approved counselor.

Rep. Sheryl Briggs, D-Mexico, said minors who seek abortions without the consent of their parents often do that for a reason.

"L.D. 1457 would allow parents who are complicit in abuse to cover that up," Briggs said. "More often than not, that is where (minors) need the protection from."

The House voted 80-63 against the measure.


MaineToday Media State House Writer Rebekah Metzler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at: rmetzler@mainetoday.com


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