Four anti-choice bills voted down in Maine House
June 7, 2011
AUGUSTA – House Democrats today led a fight to defeat four separate measures that would have eroded Maine’s current laws governing a women’s right to choose.
“Democrats fought hard to beat back numerous dangerous measures that would undermine the health of Maine women and girls,” said Rep. Emily Cain of Orono, the House Democratic leader. “Our votes today were a victory for Maine women and an affirmation that longstanding Maine law on these issues is working.”
The first measure, LD 1463, would have granted separate legal rights to a fetus and created additional criminal offenses for violent crimes against pregnant women. The bill failed in the House in a vote of 66-81 a day after it was voted down by the state Senate on Monday.
“Maine’s current law already has strong punishments for violence against pregnant women,” said Rep. Charlie Priest of Brunswick, who is the lead House Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. “This bill is unnecessary and would only open up a legal door to undermine our state’s family planning laws.”
Rep. Megan Rochelo of Biddeford, a member of the Judiciary Committee, said in other states “fetal rights” laws have been used to prosecute women for terminating pregnancies.
“In South Carolina, which has had a similar law for over 20 years, only one man has been convicted of this crime and almost 100 women have been prosecuted,” said Rochelo.
In addition to fetal rights bill, House Democrats fought back a measure, LD 924, that would force doctors to read a script on risks associated with abortions, and LD 116, which would require a 24-hour waiting period prior to an abortion. Both measures failed by large margins.
“This is unacceptable government intrusion into private health care decisions,” said Rep. Meaghan Maloney of Augusta. “Government has no place in the doctor’s office.”
Rep. Linda Sanborn, a physician representing Gorham, said Maine law already requires informed consent and noted that most abortions do not occur at the initial consult.
“This bill is not about dispensing accurate medical information,” said Sanborn. “This bill is designed to falsely scare women – the ultimate fear tactic. Shame, fear, and abuse should not be disguised as education.”
A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that the fear mongering about post abortion depression and psychological trauma has no basis in medical fact.
Sanborn also said that 24-hour waiting period laws in other states have led to an increase in second trimester abortions. In Mississippi, second trimester abortions increased by 53 percent after the state passed a law mandating 24-hour waiting periods.
"We shouldn’t make it more difficult for a woman to receive the care she needs and wants,” said Rep. Ann Peoples of Westbrook. “People don’t choose this path lightly, but putting another barrier up, only makes an already difficult situation worse.”
The last anti-choice measure debated late Tuesday night, LD 1457, would require notarized parental consent for minors seeking abortions. The measure was also voted down by a strong margin of 63 to 80.
“Current law already has provisions to encourage minors to seek counsel from adults,” said Rochelo, who noted Maine’s Adult Involvement law, which already requires minors to seek counsel from a trusted adult prior to seeking an abortion. “This will only put more teens at risk.”
Studies show in states with consent laws, teens often seek abortions out of state and travel far distances to get the care they need.
“As a parent or grandparent, I would always hope and want my child to seek my counsel, but not all children have a safe home life, some come from abusive homes,” said Rep. Chuck Kruger of Rockland, who serves on the Judiciary Committee.
In a recent study of states without parental notification laws, 61 percent of young women report that either one or both parents were aware of their abortions and 75 percent of those parents were informed by their daughters themselves.
Jodi Quintero [Cain, Priest, Kruger, Peoples, Sanborn, Rochelo], 287-1488, c. 841-6279