AUGUSTA, Maine — Dozens of state lawmakers have signed off on a new bill that would require public and private insurance providers to pay for legal abortion services.

The proposal, sponsored by Rep. Joyce McCreight, D-Harpswell, would require both public and private insurance carriers to cover abortion procedures. Currently, a 42-year-old federal law prohibits use of Medicaid funds for abortion in all but a few narrow circumstances.

Under Rep. McCreight's bill, 100 percent of coverage for abortion services would be provided by state tax dollars.

The bill would also exempt religious employers. 

"People with Medicaid who qualify for pregnancy care, because of the Hyde amendment in 1976 — unless a state makes their own policy, patients do not have access to that part of pregnancy care,' McCreight said.

Pro-life supporters say the proposal would spike insurance rates and violate the religious beliefs of private business owners.

"Saying all carriers in Maine would have to pay for abortions, that would be forcing pro-life employers to pay for abortions," said Sen. Stacey Guerin, R-Glendale.

A public hearing on the bill is expected to be held in early March.

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