Maine laws expanding abortion access go into effect

Maine laws expanding who can provide abortions and who can have abortions covered by insurance are now in effect, in another blue state effort to protect abortion access in the face of national flux.

A law allowing physician assistants and advanced practice registered nurses to perform abortions and a law requiring health insurance plans that cover maternity care to also cover abortion were implemented Thursday, after Democratic Gov. Janet Mills signed them in June.

“Every woman in Maine should be able to access sexual and reproductive health care when and where they need it,” Mills told CNN in a statement Thursday. “While other states are seeking to undermine, rollback, or outright eliminate a woman’s right to make her own personal medical decisions, Maine is defending the rights of women and taking a critical step towards equalizing access to their care.”

Maine’s new laws come as states nationwide look to legislate abortion access on their terms in anticipation of a potential reckoning with Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision legalizing abortion. Republican-leaning states such as Alabama, Georgia, Missouri and Louisiana have passed bills severely restricting abortion, while Democratic-leaning ones such as New York, Illinois, Rhode Island and Vermont have codified abortion protections.

The executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, Alison Beyea, praised the new laws as key to ensuring universal access to abortion.

“While anti-choice politicians around the nation are passing laws to chip away at our rights, Maine is moving forward toward a more just and equitable state,” she said. “These new laws affirm that abortion is health care and that everyone should have access to the health care they need, regardless of where they live or how much money they make.”

The laws’ futures were not always certain. Maine anti-abortion groups had launched a signature-collecting campaign to try to overturn the law requiring expanded insurance coverage of abortions.

Carroll Conley — executive director of the Christian Civic League of Maine, one of the groups that collected signatures — announced Wednesday that they had not reached the necessary threshold.

“While some may celebrate our inability to reach these political achievements, our goal all along has simply been to save lives,” he said in a statement.

“There is too much at stake for us to abandon advocacy for the human dignity of all,” Conley continued. “We will take lessons learned from this process and focus on upcoming elections. Our hope is enough Mainers who value life at all stages have been energized and will remain engaged to ensure our legislature does not continue to undervalue life.