The bill titles for Maine's upcoming legislative session were published this week, and we’re now getting a sense for what our reproductive rights fights are going to look like for the next few months. As far as we can tell, we’ve got two bills related to reproductive rights and one bill related to religious freedom that might have implications for reproductive rights. One bill is proactive – i.e., expanding and protecting reproductive rights. We'll be on the defensive on the other two bills that threaten to restrict reproductive rights.
The ACLU is excited to put forth proactive legislation that would ban the practice of shackling pregnant incarcerated women. Last May, I wrote a blog post about Pennsylvania’s law to ban the shackling of pregnant women. In the post, I mentioned the ACLU report that detailed state standards for reproductive rights for incarcerated individuals. 25 states currently restrict the use of restraints on pregnant prisoners – Maine is not one of those states (we're the only state in New England that doesn't).
Shackling a pregnant woman is dangerous for both the woman and her fetus. Shackling pregnant women increases their chances of falling and harming their pregnancies, and restraints during labor and postpartum recovery interfere with the ability of medical staff to provide necessary medical care. For these reasons and more, many national correctional, medical and human rights organizations oppose the shackling of pregnant women, including the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Medical Association, and the National Commission on Correctional Health Care.
In our research, we’ve found that there have been instances here in Maine of pregnant women being shackled while being transported to and from medical facilities. We’re hoping that our proposed legislation will put an end to this practice.
Another bill title is clearly attached to an anti-abortion bill – “An Act To Strengthen the Consent Laws for Abortions Performed on Minors and Incapacitated Persons.” While the language for the bill hasn’t been made public yet, it will likely resemble LD 1339 from 2013. This bill attempted to repeal Maine’s successful adult involvement law and instead require strict parental consent before a minor could have an abortion - ignoring the fact that some minors simply don't have that option. LD 1339 did not pass in 2013; we’ll work to make sure this new bill doesn’t pass either.
We're also remaining vigilant for infamous TRAP laws. Bill titles for TRAP laws can be deceptive; oftentimes, the bills don’t mention abortion in their titles. Instead, they may mention “standardizing” and “regulating” facilities that perform outpatient surgical procedures. The bill going before the Maine legislature is “An Act To Align and Standardize All Medical Facilities That Provide Outpatient Surgical Procedures.” Bills like this often force abortion clinics to comply with expensive and unnecessary structural standards, such as widening their hallways. When these bills are enacted, clinics that can’t afford to make the modifications in a timely manner are shut down. TRAP laws resulted in the closure of a large number of abortion clinics in Texas between 2013-2014.
We’re also going to see a return of a religious exemptions bill. Last February, we defeated LD 1428, a bill that would have allowed Mainers to use their religion as an excuse to discriminate against others. Despite being called a “religious freedom” bill, the bill goes far beyond already existing religious protections. It would allow anyone who claims that a law or regulation has burdened their religious freedom to sue for monetary damages. This is the same type of law that Arizona’s governor Jan Brewer vetoed in February 2014, stating that, “Discrimination has no place in Arizona, or anywhere else.”
Last year, the ACLU helped defeat LD 1428 in Maine by working in coalition with a broad base of groups and individuals, including faith leaders and organizations, LGBTQ leaders and organizations, women’s rights organizations, unions, and secular organizations. We'll be doing the same this year.