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Maine Bills Would Strip Rights From Teens and Give Them to Fetuses

Robin Marty

Three bills in the House Judiciary Committee would overhaul the way abortions are provided in the state.

A parental consent bill, an expanded version of a mandatory informed consent bill, and a bill that would give a fetus legal rights at 12 weeks’ gestation are all awaiting a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee in Maine, where restricting access to safe, legal abortion has become a goal for state legislators.

LD 1339 and LD 760 are similar to many bills that have been seen in states across the country. LD 760 is an expansion of the state’s informed consent law. It would require that abortion providers read an informed consent script to patients; currently informed consent information is delivered via written materials. It also eliminates a patient’s ability to say she does not want particular information, such as abortion alternatives or agencies that will support her pregnancy. And it would require her to view “scientifically accurate information about the fetus,” rather than allow her to request the information if she wants it.

Parental consent is the focus of LD 1339, which would drastically change teens’ access to abortion. Under current law a pregnant teen can get an abortion with the consent of any adult family member. LD 1339, much like one of the parental consent bills that has passed in Oklahoma, would limit who can consent in these cases to a parent or legal guardian, and it would require that the adult have a legal, valid ID. If the teen is pregnant as a result of sexual abuse by the person required to give consent, only then could she seek out an alternate member of her immediate family, and that person would need to be at least 21 years old to consent: “If a pregnant minor or incapacitated person declares in a signed written statement that she is a victim of sexual abuse, neglect or physical abuse by either of her parents or her legal guardian, the attending physician shall obtain the written consent as described in subsection 6 from the minor, if applicable, and from a brother or sister who is at least 21 years of age or from a stepparent or grandparent specified by the minor or incapacitated person.”

While the legislature on one hand is stripping rights from pregnant teens, on the other hand it is creating new rights for fetuses while redefining medical terms. LD 1193 is the “Act to Allow a Wrongful Death Cause of Action for the Death of an Unborn Child.” By “unborn child,” the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Amy Volk (R-Scarborough), means all fetuses that are ten weeks past conception; the bill calls these fetuses “viable.” “For purposes of this subsection, an unborn viable fetus is a fetus that has reached the 12th week of gestation or beyond,” according to the bill.

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Volk, an outspoken abortion opponent whose college-age daughter compared the Sandy Hook shooting to legal abortion late last year, has clarified that her bill would not criminalize abortion providers for “acting legally.” But with a strict view that abortions should be illegal under all circumstances, including when a woman’s health is at risk, her attempt to redefine viability reads as a not-so-subtle attack on the legal right to abortion.

Viability, a defined medical term, applies to fetuses that could survive on their own outside the womb, which doesn’t occur until at least 23 weeks’ gestation, according to the most conservative estimate. Should the bill pass, the Maine legislature would be attempting to redefine medical science.

All three bills are expected to be heard in the House Judiciary committee on May 16.

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