May 17, 2013

Maine abortion measures bring out passions

Testimony continues into the evening on bills proposed by lawmakers opposed to abortion.

By Michael Shepherd mshepherd@mainetoday.com
State House Bureau

(Continued from page 1)

Today's poll: Teen abortions

Do you think Maine legislators should pass a law that would make it harder for a girl 17 or under to get an abortion without parental consent?



View Results

click image to enlarge

Pro-choice and anti-abortion protesters exchange words in front of the Planned Parenthood clinic at 443 Congress St. in Portland in January. Strong passions were also at the center of public hearing Thursday, May 16, 2013 in Augusta on three abortion-related bills.

2013 Press Herald File Photo / John Patriquin

Critics of that bill noted that the science used to determine viability is uncertain: one of the earliest-born babies ever to survive outside the womb was born at 21 weeks, according to a database from the University of Iowa.

Volk said she is considering amending that portion of her bill to 24 weeks.

Abortion rights groups, led by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, called all of the bills "anti-choice," and said most minors who get abortions in Maine go to clinics with their parents and get sufficient information from doctors.

"We ask any minor who approaches us to involve their parents because we genuinely think it's best for them to involve their parents," said Ruth Lockhart, executive director of the Mabel Wadsworth Women's Health Center in Bangor, which provides abortions.

"The exceptions to this rule are tragic," said Lockhart, speaking about Davis' bill at a press conference before the hearing.

But Susan Leighton, a lobbyist for the Maine Right to Life Committee, said Davis' bill is meant to "help parents help their kids" through an abortion, a trying emotional experience.

"Currently, my daughter is 17," she said, "and if she were to be pregnant, she could go to an abortion clinic without my knowledge."

By national standards, the Maine abortion laws targeted by Davis' and Espling's bills are more liberal than most.

Thirty-eight states, including New Hampshire, Massachusetts and New York, require parental consent or notification or both, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which supports aborion rights.

Only Maine, Connecticut and the District of Columbia allow minors to get abortion services without parental consent.

The Guttmacher Institute said Maine is one of eight states with more relaxed informed-consent provisions.

Restrictive states such as Indiana and Kansas impose waiting periods before all non-emergency abortions and require women to receive written material saying "personhood" begins at conception.

"We're not trying to take away choice," said Leighton, the Maine Right to Life lobbyist. "If you're pro-choice, you're pro-informed."

Abortion-rights advocates say current law is adequate. Megan Hannan, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, said provisions in Espling's bill are intended to "shame, judge and confuse" women.

"The reason we allow women to request additional information (rather than automatically giving it to them) is because we know there are many reasons women decide to end their pregnancy," she said.

Volk's bill is similar to laws in most other states. A 2008 fact sheet from the pro-choice Law Students for Reproductive Justice at New York University Law School says most court jurisdictions allow wrongful-death lawsuits for viable fetuses that die from injuries.

Shenna Bellows, executive director of the ACLU of Maine, said that while Volk's bill seeks to protect abortion providers, it could still put a burden on a provider to prove in a civil proceeding that an abortion was legal.

The Judiciary Committee will likely take positions on the bills Friday.

Michael Shepherd can be reached at 370-7652 or at:


Twitter: @mikeshepherdme

Correction: This story has been updated to correct what information doctors must give women before performing abortions under Maine law and a reference to Law Students for Reproductive Justice at New York University Law School.


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Today's poll: Teen abortions

Do you think Maine legislators should pass a law that would make it harder for a girl 17 or under to get an abortion without parental consent?



View Results