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Maine Dems propose expanded coverage for abortion services

The Maine House Republicans called it "the most extreme in the country."

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine Democratic leadership in the House, Senate, and Governor's office announced four new bills on Tuesday aimed at expanding access to abortion services across the state—including what House Republicans called "the most extreme" measure in the country.

The bills haven't yet been printed, but proposed moves include protecting providers from criminal punishment for performing abortions, as well as making abortion more affordable for patients.

But, the most significant piece yet—in a bill pushed by Democratic Governor Janet Mills—would allow for an abortion, regardless of the stage of pregnancy, if a doctor deems it medically necessary.

"This bill will make clear that a decision about an abortion later in pregnancy will be made by a qualified health care professional with their patient," Mills said. "Ensuring that medical providers can offer care that their patients [sic] need when they need it."

Newly appointed House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross, D-Portland, said she was proud to sponsor Mills' bill.

"Our proposed legislation makes clear that we will treat abortion for what it is: a safe medical procedure," she said.

Republicans pushed back, including Senate Minority Leader Trey Stewart, R-Aroostook, who said he hadn't yet read the bills when NEWS CENTER Maine asked him for comment.

"They're upstairs talking about how to expand abortion and kill more fetuses. Apparently, that's their priority," he said. "Ours is focused on child welfare and making sure the children that we're responsible for are going to be able to grow up."

The House GOP sent a statement taking aim at Mills.

"House Republicans oppose Governor Mills' extreme expansion of Maine’s abortion laws," the statement said. "After making taxpayers fund elective abortions, Democrats are now proposing abortions at any point in a woman’s pregnancy, removing the existing 'viability' standard.

"This runs counter to wide support for current Maine law that restricts abortions after fetal viability. Despite statements suggesting Republicans would seek to change Maine’s abortion law, it is now Governor Mills who is looking to make Maine’s the most extreme in the country.

"During the October 4, 2022 gubernatorial debate, Governor Mills was asked: Would you support removing the current viability restriction in Maine’s law?" Governor Mills responded: "No, I support the current Maine law [...] We encourage widespread participation in the public hearing process so the voices of all Maine people are heard before extreme changes are made to current law."

Nicole Clegg, chief impact and strategy officer with Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, hosted Tuesday's press conference. NEWS CENTER Maine asked how she would respond to public questions about oversight in the process.

"The reality is that doctors are licensed; they have to be insured; and there's a whole process within our state government that can review and take away someone's license for acting inappropriately," she said. "The reality is that that's not really a concern. These are tragic, really harmful situations in which people aren't able to get the care that they need and should be able to get here in Maine, and have to travel hundreds of miles away."

The legislators did not say when they intended to file the bills.

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