Over the last eight years, legislatures across the country have passed 400 laws to restrict safe and affordable access to abortion care. But in the face of these nationwide attacks on reproductive freedom, Maine is celebrating two historic victories to expand access.

These momentous victories include Governor Mills signing the passage of LD 820, which guarantees all Mainers can afford abortion care regardless of what insurance they use, and LD 1261, which ends a ban that previously prevented qualified nurse practitioners and other advanced practice clinicians (APCs) from providing abortion care throughout the State.

The successful passage of these two laws come as the ACLU of Maine continues to litigate these issues in Mabel Wadsworth Center et al. v. Lambrew, filed in 2015 to challenge Maine’s ban on Medicaid coverage on abortion, and Jenkins et al. v. Lynch et al., filed in 2017 to challenge Maine’s law that blocked nurse practitioners and APCs from performing abortions. LD 1261 counters the lack of geographical access to abortion care in Maine by increasing the number of qualified clinicians who are able to provide that care to people in their communities.

As the most rural state in the country, Maine previously had only three cities—Augusta, Bangor, and Portland—where people could access in-office abortion care. And while access to tele-medicine abortion care has grown, it is limited by physician availability.

As nurse practitioner Julie Jenkins, a plaintiff in our case, underscores, that Maine law had been “[forcing her] to send away patients in desperate situations, even though [she was] trained, qualified, and more than willing to provide the care they need.” LD 1261 will make it easier for people in rural areas to obtain that same care without such financial or logistical obstacles.

The passage of LD 820 bolsters reproductive freedom even further by requiring all insurance plans that cover prenatal care—most notably including MaineCare—to also cover abortion care. With this new law, the state is ensuring that individuals maintain their fundamental right to choose whether or not to continue a pregnancy. This passage removes yet another socioeconomic barrier meant to weaken individuals’ reproductive freedom.

Both LD 1261 and LD 820, for which the ACLU of Maine fought alongside partners including Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, Maine Family Planning, and Mabel Wadsworth Center, will help Maine be a place where abortion care is available to anyone who needs it. As Oamshri Amarasingham, advocacy director for the ACLU of Maine, emphasized, “These 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.”

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