On Monday, the Maine Alliance for Reproductive Freedom met at the State House in Augusta to advocate for two Maine bills that help protect women's reproductive health, and to discourage a bill that imposes more stringent guidelines for minors who may be seeking abortion. That latter bill, LD 83 would actually repeal the current law on the books that allows minors and those who are otherwise incapacitated to obtain an abortion without written consent of a guardian. (The bill would still allow abortions to be performed in medical emergencies regardless.) The proposed bill would also make it possible for a sibling, step-parent, or grandparent to allow such consent — but only in special circumstances, which are not defined.
It's this murky language that makes LD 83 a threat to the reproductive health of women in Maine, especially when it comes to determining whether an individual is mature enough to make the decision themselves. In a press release, the ACLU stated:
First, the court may waive the need for 3rd-party consent if it finds by clear and convincing evidence that the petitioner is both sufficiently mature and well-informed to decide whether to have an abortion. Second, the court may waive the need for 3rd-party consent if the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that there is a pattern of physical or sexual abuse or neglect of the petitioner by one or both of her parents or her guardian or that notification of a parent or guardian is not in the best interests of the petitioner.
The first of the far more beneficial bills, LD 319, extends healthcare coverage to those who are under- or uninsured when seeking reproductive and family health services. It's a proposed extension of Medicaid that would be available for those who "have individual incomes less than or equal to 209 percent of the nonfarm income official poverty line."
Abbie Strout, Mabel Wadsworth Women’s Health Center Director of Education and Community Engagement, echoed the ACLU's statements with her own show of support:
Access to affordable health care, including reproductive health care, is an essential component of women’s economic security. LD 319 will create stronger families by giving women full control of their reproductive lives and allowing them to take full advantage of educational and career opportunities.
The final bill that ACLU is calling for Maine legislators to support is LD 1013, which truly sheds light on the downright inhumane prison practices that psychologically and physically hurt female inmates. Shockingly, there is currently no law against shackling pregnant prisoners or detainees in Maine. LD 1013 wants to change that by preventing such practices, save for only the most extreme circumstances.
The bill also allows for information to be given to pregnant inmates about adoption, as well as their own rights. Privacy and dignity is a primary component of LD 1013, which states that corrections officers are not required to be in the same room as a prisoner in labor unless medical personnel say otherwise.As of this writing, all three bills have been referred to their respective committees but no further action has been taken on them. The ACLU is hoping that its influence makes for effective lobbying.Images: Getty Images (2)