Groups Are Appealing Lower Court Ruling That Allows Discrimination to Continue

Augusta – The ACLU of Maine and three Maine abortion providers are at the Maine Supreme Judicial Court today to appeal a ruling against their lawsuit challenging the ban on MaineCare insurance coverage for abortion. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Mabel Wadsworth Center, Maine Family Planning, and Planned Parenthood of Northern New England by lawyers from the ACLU and Planned Parenthood.

“The decision about whether and when to become a parent is too important and too personal – a woman must be able to make this decision without politicians,” said Zachary Heiden, ACLU of Maine legal director. “A woman’s ability to get the care she needs should never be contingent on how much money she makes or what type of insurance she has.”

Current Maine Department of Health and Human Services policy bans abortion coverage under the state’s public insurance program in most circumstances. The lawsuit contends that the ban on abortion coverage for women who use MaineCare violates the Maine Constitution and state law.

The women targeted and harmed by this ban on abortion coverage are, by definition, low-income. For many of them, the denial of coverage for an abortion forces them to delay care, increasing the costs and complexity of the procedure. Some women are forced to make impossible decisions between paying for an abortion and paying for essentials like rent or heat. Research shows that bans on abortion coverage forced 1 in 4 poor women seeking abortion to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term against their will.

In October, the Cumberland County Superior Court ruled in favor of the defendant, DHHS Commissioner Ricker Hamilton. The abortion providers and the ACLU have appealed that decision to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

The following can be attribute to the plaintiffs as noted:

“We talk to women every day who struggle to come up with the money to pay for abortion care. For Maine women living in rural areas who must travel long distances for care, the need is even greater,” said Andrea Irwin, executive director of Mabel Wadsworth Center. “We do not accept a policy that treats pregnant women in Maine according to two different standards – a woman should be able to use her Medicaid coverage for the medical services she needs, including abortion.”

“No one should be denied abortion care just because they are struggling financially,” said George Hill, President and CEO of Maine Family Planning. “In fact, denying coverage for abortion can push a patient deeper into poverty. Our patients have the right to access safe, quality health care without needless burdens or delays, regardless of income.”

“You have a right to make your own decisions about whether to end a pregnancy without politicians withholding the resources you might need to make that decision – including Medicaid insurance if you qualify for it,” said Donna Burkett MD, Medical Director at Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. “The vast majority of people want a woman seeking an abortion to have a safe, supportive, non-judgmental experience without added burdens. Preventing qualified people from using their health insurance benefits is an added burden that prevents women from making a real choice about what’s best for them and their families.”

More information about the case, Mabel Wadsworth et al. v. Ricker Hamilton, is available here: