Governor Mills Signs Legislation Empowering Women & Doctors to Make Reproductive Health Care Decisions

Governor has also signed a package of reproductive rights bills to protect access to abortion in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year overturning Roe v. Wade

Governor Janet Mills today signed into law legislation that puts the decision about whether to have an abortion later in pregnancy in the hands of women and their doctors – not politicians or lawyers, ensuring that patients can get care they need, when they need it.

The bill, An Act to Improve Maine's Reproductive Privacy Laws, was supported by a broad coalition of religious leaders, medical professionals, reproductive health care experts, and others.

It was inspired by the story of Yarmouth resident Dana Peirce, who had to seek an abortion out-of-state after she discovered her child was suffering from a deadly form of skeletal dysplasia, a random, rare genetic mutation. Maine’s abortion laws prevented her from accessing care here in Maine. This bill seeks to ensure that no Maine person has to endure the same physical, emotional, psychological, and financial burden that Peirce did in order to receive medical care.

The Governor was joined today for the signing by Peirce, patient advocate Zoe Reich, lawmakers, and representatives from Maine Medical Association, the Maine Council of Churches, Maine Family Planning, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, Mabel Wadsworth Center, ACLU of Maine, Grandmothers for Reproductive Rights, Maine Women’s Lobby, and the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence.

“Maine law should recognize that every pregnancy, like every woman, is different, and that politicians cannot and should not try to legislate the wide variety of difficult circumstances pregnant women face. Instead, we should recognize the complexity of pregnancy and, like every other health care procedure, take government out of the decision-making process and put the doctor and patient in charge,” said Governor Janet Mills. “Today, the State of Maine is following best medical practice by modernizing our laws to get politicians out of reproductive health care and to make clear that the difficult decision of whether to have an abortion later in pregnancy will be made by a woman and her doctor – not anyone else. In doing so, we are affirming women’s reproductive rights and ensuring that no other woman has to endure thephysical, emotional, psychological, and financial burden that Dana did to get the care she needed.”

“We learned during the 32nd week of a seemingly healthy pregnancy that the baby I was carrying, Cameron, had a rare and lethal form of skeletal dysplasia. He had multiple broken bones, and if he survived until delivery, he would not have been able to breathe outside of me. In this moment of shock and grief, my doctors here in Maine could not help us, because state law at the time banned abortions later in pregnancy. Fortunately, we were lucky enough to have the social and financial resources — the abortion alone cost $25,000 — to travel across the country for abortion care to end our son's suffering,” said Dana Peirce of Yarmouth. “I am grateful beyond explanation that Governor Mills and our Maine legislators have heard my story and acted to protect other Mainers from the unnecessary suffering we endured. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

“Today is a proud and deeply emotional day for me and all patient advocates who have been tirelessly sharing our stories in the hopes of impacting change through improving Maine's laws. The passing of LD 1619 will provide great relief to patients who find themselves in need of abortion care later in pregnancy, like I did,” said Zoe Reich of Portland. “Thank you, Governor Mills, and the majority of the Democratic lawmakers in the state for recognizing that the deeply personal decision to have an abortion should be left to the pregnant person and their medical provider. I love this state and I'm proud that it will be a place where no one will be forced to endure the cruel and punitive suffering that I did, in order to get the healthcare they need.”

“Maine physicians are face-to-face with real people every day. The reasons why people seek abortions are complex. We understand the anxiety, fear, and differing personal circumstances of each patient, including the real-life impacts of pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting,” said Erik Steele, D.O, and President of Maine Medical Association. “All medical care, including the very personal and private decision of abortion, is best determined in an office by patients and trusted health care providers focused on consensus, evidence-based medical decision-making. We applaud Governor Mills for standing in defense of the health care of all Mainers and our profession.”

“As part of our ongoing commitment to promoting reproductive justice, the Maine Council of Churches, an ecumenical coalition of seven mainline Protestant denominations with 437 congregations throughout the state, supported passage of LD 1619. And we did so, not despite our faith, but because of it,” said Reverend Jane Field, Executive Director of the Maine Council of Churches. “Rather than offer rigid, simplistic, one-size-fits-all ‘answers’ to life’s most difficult and complex questions, we believe we are called to respect the moral capacity and autonomy of pregnant persons to discern the best path forward in consultation with licensed health care providers who are bound by medical ethics and are trained to determine appropriate, necessary medical care at every stage of a pregnancy. We do not believe anyone should be forced by the government to remain pregnant against the advice of their doctor — and this law means that won’t be happening here in Maine.”

“We applaud Governor Mills and Maine lawmakers for protecting abortion access by repealing outdated and anti-science laws that criminalized essential health care and pushed it out of reach for most Mainers at later stages of pregnancy. Across the country, states are banning abortion outright and threatening prosecution against patients and providers – risking their people’s lives and wellbeing,” said Meagan Sway, Policy Director, ACLU of Maine. “In the face of these national trends, Maine has moved in the opposite direction by making it easier for people to make the best health care decisions for themselves without legal threats or judgment, including the ability to access abortion care.”

“The Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence stands in solidarity with those who advocated for LD 1619, especially those who bravely shared stories of how access to abortion care saved or improved their lives and the lives of their families,” said Amanda Taisey, Health Systems Engagement Coordinator for the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence. “LD 1619 removes barriers for all Mainers, including those experiencing intimate partner violence. Abusive partners and their power and control tactics, including physical and sexual violence, are key reasons why survivors may have pregnancies they do not intend, may be prevented from seeking care when they want and need it, or suffer complications in their pregnancies requiring later term abortions. We applaud the elected officials and Governor Mills for taking this ground-breaking step to ensure access to the full range of reproductive healthcare for all Mainers. MCEDV and the Domestic Violence Resource Centers across our state are proud to continue to support survivors accessing the care that they need and have a right to.”

“We are proud to see Maine take an important step towards ensuring reproductive freedom for all of us and celebrate the signing of LD 1619 into law today. As a healthcare center that provides prenatal and abortion care, we understand that decisions around pregnancy are complex and unique to each of us. They are some of the most intimate and life-changing choices we make in our lives,” said Abbie Strout-Bentes, Co-Director of the Mabel Wadsworth Center. “LD 1619 is a compassionate bill that trusts medical professionals and pregnant people to make decisions about their healthcare needs. We are grateful to all of Maine’s leaders who rejected the fear tactics, harmful rhetoric, and disinformation spread by anti-abortion extremists and supported this critical bill.”

“On behalf of the board, staff, and patients of Maine Family Planning, we express our deepest gratitude to Governor Mills, House Speaker Talbot Ross, Senate President Jackson, and every Maine lawmaker and citizen who supported LD 1619 through its passage into law. When people are making decisions about their reproductive health care, they don’t need politicians or lawyers in the room with them, restricting their options, creating confusion and delays in care, or potentially criminalizing patients and providers. They need to be trusted, supported, and empowered to make decisions that are right for their bodies and their lives,” said George Hill, President & CEO of Maine Family Planning. “With the passage of LD 1619, Maine is following science, compassion, and best practices in the delivery of reproductive medicine. We are proud to join Alaska, Colorado, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, and the District of Columbia as a place that doesn’t impose unscientific, arbitrary restrictions on access to abortion.”

“The passage of LD 1619 is a significant victory for bodily autonomy during a national humanitarian crisis for pregnant people. Gestational bans and criminal codes most profoundly harm racially and economically marginalized communities,” said Elayne Richard, Education Coordinator, Grandmothers for Reproductive Rights. “We thank those who shared experiences publicly, thereby shining light on the complexity of individual decision-making, as well as existing barriers to care. We are proud of the majority of Maine legislators for trusting pregnant people and improving access to abortion services.”

“The Maine Women’s Lobby would like to extend our deepest gratitude to Governor Mills and Speaker Talbot Ross, and to each of the lawmakers who took the step to support increased access to abortion care in Maine this session,” said Destie Hohman Sprague, Executive Director of Maine Women’s Lobby. “Abortion care opens the door to gender equity, and no matter what, we refuse to let that door close. This bill, and the collection of bills passed this year affirming Maine’s commitment to abortion access, are ways that we open the door to gender justice and ensure that women and all people who can become pregnant have the autonomy and resources to make the best decisions they can for their bodies and their futures.”

“Thanks to patients who bravely shared their stories of how bans on abortion care impacted them and caused harm, Maine has a new law that will put the decisions in these situations where they belong — in the hands of patients and their doctors,” said Nicole Clegg, Acting CEO, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. “We have enormous gratitude for Governor Mills, Speaker Talbot Ross, President Jackson and a majority of lawmakers in the statehouse who listened to these stories and acted with compassion. Clinicians in Maine will now be able to provide care their patients need, when they need it, right here at home, and they won’t have to fear prosecution for using their medical judgment to meet the needs of their patients.”

Maine’s current law, the Reproductive Privacy Act, allows for abortion later in pregnancy to “preserve the life or health of the mother”, but this prescriptive approach to legislating a medical procedure fails to effectively address the wide variety of circumstances faced by pregnant women. The legislation removes these inflexible limitations from law and, instead, states that the personal decision about whether to have an abortion later in pregnancy will be made by a woman in consultation with her doctor, consistent with all applicable standards of care.

The legislation – which Governor Mills, Senate President Jackson and Speaker Talbot Ross announced in January – also eliminates language in current law that subjects medical providers who perform abortions to criminal penalties under certain circumstances, instead regulating abortion like other safe, legal medical procedures. It also updates antiquated data collection policies related to abortion care to reduce stigma, protect patient privacy, and protect reproductive health care providers.

It comes after Democratic lawmakers turned back attempts by Republican lawmakers to restrict access to abortion and related reproductive health care, including bills to force ultrasounds, mandate biased counseling, take away insurance coverage of abortion for low-income people, and restrict access for rural Mainers.

The Governor also announced today that she has signed into law a series of other reproductive rights bills intended to protect access to abortion in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year overturning Roe v. Wade. Since the Court overturned those protections, 1 in 3 Americans has lost the right to an abortion in their home state.

LD 263, An Act to Ensure Access to Family Planning Services, sponsored by Representative Melanie Sachs. This law addresses the potential loss of access to abortion that can arise from the consolidation and merger between health care providers by requiring close review of proposed takeovers or transfers of ownership during the certificate of need process in order to ensure that access to high-quality sexual and reproductive health services remains intact, affordable, and reliable.

“No Mainer should lose access to essential health care due to a merger or acquisition,”said Representative Melanie Sachs. “These types of consolidations can have a significant ripple effect on local communities, impacting everything from patient costs and quality of care to the services that are actually accessible. This new law will give us the tools we need to provide guidance and oversight so that access to high-quality sexual and reproductive health services remains intact, affordable and reliable.”

LD 616, An Act to Protect Health Care Professionals Providing Reproductive Health Care Services, sponsored by Representative Amy Kuhn. This law, consistent with Governor Mills’ 2022 Executive Order, strengthens protections for health care providers so that they may safely offer care to people traveling to Maine for abortion care.

“In the year since the Dobbs decision, the new patchwork of state abortion laws has created uncertainty for patients and providers about the availability of care, along with the consequences of seeking and providing it,” said Representative Amy Kuhn. “This new law will address one aspect of that uncertainty by removing the potential for malpractice insurers to take adverse action against providers for offering abortion care for patients traveling to Maine. Strengthening protections for providers will reinforce the provider-patient relationship and ensure continuity of care.”

LD 935, An Act to Remove Barriers to Abortion Coverage in Private Insurance, sponsored by Representative Matt Moonen. This law ensures that Maine people who have the right to an abortion can afford the care they need. While Maine law requires private insurance coverage of abortion as a part of comprehensive pregnancy care, many health insurance plans require patients to pay out of pocket for abortion care until they meet deductibles. This cost sharing can cause delays in care as people struggle to afford an abortion. LD 935 removes financial barriers by establishing that, effective January 1, 2024, health plans in Maine may not impose any deductible, copayment, coinsurance, or other cost-sharing requirement for abortion services.

“The reality is that few people have the savings to afford a medical emergency, and cost-sharing most severely affects those with the fewest financial resources,” said Representative Moonen. “For those in need of access to abortion, those costs can mean a month's rent or a car payment. Scrambling to come up with the extra money for these out-of-pocket costs can cause delays in care, pushing a woman later into pregnancy and potentially further into economic distress. LD 935 will ensure that more Mainers do not struggle to access this most basic of care.”

LD 1343, An Act to Protect the Reproductive Freedom of Maine People by Preempting the Field of Abortion Regulation, sponsored by Representative Laura Supica. This law prevents municipalities from enacting any local ordinance in conflict with Maine’s Reproductive Privacy Act, a tactic that is becoming increasingly popular with anti-abortion extremists in states where abortion remains legal. This law ensures that every Maine person – regardless of where they live – has the same right to abortion care.

“It's easy to get lost in the inflammatory rhetoric of the abortion debate in Augusta, but seeing this bill signed into law is a reminder of one of the reasons my district sent me here: to protect reproductive rights,” said Representative Laura Supica. “With this new law, the right to access an abortion in Maine will not be restricted based on local politics. I am proud to stand with the governor in this fight and to combat the shame and stigma that some people want me, and the thousands of women like me, to feel for choosing to have an abortion.”

In Maine, Governor Mills has fought to empower women to make their own decisions about their reproductive health. She has enacted laws that prevent protestors from blocking health clinics; that require public and private insurance coverage of abortion services; and that made those services available to people in rural and urban areas of Maine. The Governor has also expanded postpartum Medicaid health care coverage from 60 days after a woman gives birth to 12 months.Governor Mills has also joined fellow governors to launch the Reproductive Freedom Alliance, a multi-state coalition focused on protecting and expanding reproductive rights.