Maine’s ban on non-physicians providing abortion care may soon be scrapped thanks to a bill introduced by Democratic House Speaker Sara Gideon and Gov. Janet Mills (D-Freeport).
Announced Thursday, LD 1261 would allow qualified advanced practice clinicians (APCs) such as nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and certified nurse-midwives to provide abortion care. “Physician-only” laws are among the barriers aimed at curbing access to abortion; Maine’s physician-only law leaves only three publicly accessible health centers where patients can receive in-clinic abortion care—in Augusta, Bangor, and Portland. Patients in rural areas often travel hours for care even though there are qualified, experienced practitioners in their own communities. Such restrictions particularly affect people who already face systemic barriers to health care, including those with low incomes, people of color, and young people.
Mills introduced a similar bill last year when she was attorney general. Advocates are hopeful it will pass now that the state has a pro-choice governor and Democratic legislative majorities.
This could be significant in the underserved state, said Alison Bates, a nurse practitioner in Maine with Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.
“About 80 percent of counties in Maine have no abortion provider. So you can imagine the burden that is placed on patients seeking that care when they can’t afford it in their own communities,” Bates told Rewire.News. “This is an opportunity for us to align state law with the necessary scope of practice that’s within my purview as an APC and, in doing so, affords patients in Maine access to this service more broadly.”
If someone comes to her clinic seeking an abortion, Bates said she’s forced to turn them away, as per state law, because she has an RN and not an