AUGUSTA - In advance of tomorrow’s public hearing, Maine’s leading reproductive health and rights groups voiced their support for a bill that would ensure coverage of abortion care under public and private insurance if the plan covers prenatal care 

LD 820An Act To Prevent Discrimination in Public and Private Insurance Coverage for Pregnant Women in Maine, is sponsored by Rep. Jay McCreight of Harpswell and cosponsored by more than 80 legislators in the Senate and the House. The bill was carefully drafted to include exemptions for religious employers consistent with current Maine law and language to allow for exemptions to protect federal funds.

Despite polarizing rhetoric, voters are generally in agreement about abortion care. When asked what the experience should be like for a woman who has decided to have an abortion, two-thirds of voters say it should be covered by her insurance. More than 8 in 10 say that care should be affordable and without added burdens.

Since 1976 the Hyde Amendment has denied federal Medicaid coverage of abortion except in extreme circumstances of rape, incest, and life endangerment, meaning eligible people have been prevented from using their healthcare coverage for abortion care. The motives of this restriction were clear: to make it as difficult as possible for poor women, especially women of color, to make their own decisions about their pregnancies.

States, however, can ensure coverage of abortion for people with Medicaid, which 15 already do. Another eight provide expanded coverage. Maine has thus far denied coverage for abortion under Medicaid and, under the LePage administration, went further by denying access to birth control and other preventive health services if that care was provided on the same day as an abortion.

There are no similar limits on private insurance covering abortion care. But while a number of insurance providers cover abortion in Maine, many plans do not -- even in the extreme circumstances of sexual assault and life endangerment.

Coverage restrictions have direct financial implications for patients, particularly those with lower incomes.

The majority of voters understand that denying access to the full range of reproductive health care services, including abortion, jeopardizes a patient’s economic well-being. Three in four (76%) voters believe that women having insurance coverage for the full range of reproductive healthcare, including birth control, pregnancy tests, prenatal care, and abortion is important to ensuring that they have equal economic opportunities.

LD 820 ensures that the ability to afford abortion care does not influence a patient’s private medical decisions about their pregnancy.

The public hearing on LD 820 will begin at 1 p.m. on Wednesday March 27 in room 220 of the Cross Office building.

Mindy Woerter of Durham There is nothing more deafeningly silent than the ultrasound room when the technician knows something is seriously wrong. At what we thought was a routine ultrasound, the doctor explained that our baby had a rare and lethal anomaly incompatible with life. I would never make it to term and continuing the pregnancy could put my health at risk. The choice was both excruciatingly hard and heartbreakingly easy: I ended my pregnancy at 13 weeks. A month later while still grieving our loss, our insurance company informed us our abortion would not be covered and sent a bill for $6,000. Thanks to my privilege, I was able to access the care I needed. All women, no matter their source of insurance, should have abortion covered as any other medical procedure would be.    

Dana Peirce learned her son had a lethal condition in her 32nd week of pregnancy and had to go to Colorado for the $25,000 procedure to end her pregnancy I can’t change what went wrong with my son. But I hope to change how we treat women, who for whatever reason, need an abortion. Mine was a very sad situation that was made much worse by current laws. By sharing my experience and helping to pass this bill, I’m trying to make it better for somebody else. 

Nicole Clegg, Vice President of Public Policy, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England Abortion has been safe and legal in the United States for more than 40 years. That’s not the question. The question is whether abortion should be accessible for everyone no matter your income or health insurance. While we all have our own personal feelings and beliefs about abortion, most of us also believe it’s not our place to make that decision for someone else. Without LD 820, insurance companies can continue influencing your decision by denying care---preventing you from using your healthcare coverage for personal medical decisions---and that’s not right.

Trisha Smith of Dover-Foxcroft Medicaid paid for an IUD after my abortion, yearly wellness checks at a clinic, medications and treatment for mental health, and virtually all my daughter’s health care needs. But Medicaid didn’t cover my $500 abortion. Abortion care is necessary health care for people who can become pregnant. There is no reason a health care plan should cover every aspect of pregnancy and childbirth and not offer to cover the obvious alternative to pregnancy. 

Kate Brogan, Vice President for Public Affairs at Maine Family Planning As providers, we talk to women every day who face challenges to access the abortion care they need. For women with low incomes, the financial challenge can seem insurmountable. We know that every woman’s experience with unintended pregnancy is different, and her decisions shouldn’t be influenced by what her health plan will cover. We all deserve health coverage that includes all medically necessary care; this legislation will be a dramatic step toward making that a reality for the women of Maine.

Andrea Irwin, Executive Director of Mabel Wadsworth Center We don't have to imagine what it looks like when abortion is pushed out of reach. Every day, as providers, we see the impact of denying abortion coverage. Nearly 7 in 10 of our abortion patients receive partial or full help from an abortion fund. As a result, many patients must come up with their own funds to cover an abortion, sometimes even delaying care. What's more, many also incur expenses due to travel, child care, and lost wages from missing work. These bans are coercive and prevent patients from making informed decisions about their own health. They also push women deeper into poverty. Restricting coverage of abortion forces one in four poor women seeking abortion to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term. Mainers value autonomy and independence; ending this harmful policy respects those values and ensures all people in need of abortion have equal access as those deciding to parent.

Oamshri Amarasingham, Advocacy Director of the ACLU of Maine Abortion is a constitutionally protected right, and access shouldn't depend on your income. But when coverage for abortion is withheld, it undermines a patient's ability to decide whether or not to continue a pregnancy. Eligible patients should be able to use their insurance for the medical care they need, including abortion.