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Maine governor expands access to abortion later in pregnancy

2023-07-19 23:18
Maine Gov. Janet Mills has signed a bill into law that expands access to abortions later in pregnancy
Maine governor expands access to abortion later in pregnancy

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Democratic Gov. Janet Mills signed a bill into law Wednesday that expands access to abortions later in pregnancy in Maine, joining a half-dozen states that leave it to doctors and patients to make the decision without restrictions on timing.

The new law allows abortions at any time if deemed medically necessary by a doctor, making the law one of the nation's least restrictive. The old law banned abortions after a fetus becomes viable outside the womb, at roughly 24 weeks, but allowed an exception if the patient’s life is at risk.

Mills said during her reelection campaign that the old law didn't need to be changed. But she reversed course after learning of a Maine veterinarian who had to travel to Colorado for an abortion after learning at week 32 of her pregnancy that her unborn son had a fatal condition that would not allow him to survive.

The veterinarian, Dana Peirce, was present at the bill signing, standing behind the lectern alongside medical providers in white jackets, lawmakers and a clergy member.

Passage of the bill was considered a foregone conclusion in the state Legislature where Democrats controlled both chambers, and there were enough co-sponsors to ensure passage.

But the bill nonetheless generated emotional debate.

Critics said the law's language was broader than necessary if the goal was simply to allow abortions in instances of a fatal fetal anomaly later in a pregnancy. They said it could lead to a dramatic increase in post-viability abortions, and that it puts too much faith in doctors to make a determination.

Abortions later in pregnancy are rare. Nationally, about 1% happen after 21 weeks, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tallies, which do not have full data from every state.

Nationally, many Republican-controlled states are doing just the opposite from what Maine did by either banning or restricting abortions since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a patient's constitutional right to an abortion, leaving it up to individual states to regulate the procedure.

Most Democratic-controlled states have taken steps to protect abortion access, though none has gone as far as Maine since the Supreme Court ruling last year.

Beside Maine, six states leave the decision to get an abortion to doctors and their patients, without restrictions. They are Alaska, Colorado, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon and Vermont, plus Washington, D.C.


Associated Press writer Geoff Mulvihill in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, contributed to this report.

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