The Maine house’s Democratic majority rejected a bill that would require clinics providing abortion services to meet onerous licensing requirements.
LD 1312, sponsored by Rep. Deborah Sanderson (R-Chelsea), would require all outpatient surgical abortion facilities to be licensed by the state Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). To operate a surgical abortion facility, an abortion provider would have to submit an application and pay initial licensing and renewal fees to DHHS.
Licenses, once issued, would be valid for up to two years. The department would need to adopt rules governing the licensing of such facilities and may adopt rules establishing reasonable operational and safety standards for the facilities. Inspections of abortion facilities would be required to verify compliance.
The Maine Board of Medicine provides licenses and oversees clinics and physicians who provide abortion services, under current state law. The board also conducts investigations when complaints arise.
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Lawmakers in the house, where Democrats hold 78-68 majority, voted 84 to 65 to reject the TRAP bill.
Rep. Charlotte Warren (D-Hallowell) opposed the bill because she said it is a thinly veiled attempt to restrict access to abortion care.
“The truth is that LD 1312 has nothing to do with patient care,” Warren said, reported Maine Public Broadcasting. “Proposals like LD 1312 are designed by politicians—not doctors—to shut down clinics and to end access to safe legal abortion.”
Sanderson claimed the intent of the legislation was not to restrict access to abortion care. The bill is similar to other targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) bills that have been introduced in several states this year.
TRAP bills, common in Republican-dominated state legislatures, require facilities that provide abortion care be subject to regulations that are more stringent than those applied to medical clinics generally.
“Regardless of what you believe or think about the availability of abortion services, they are legal, and they are here to stay,” Sanderson said during the floor debate, reported the Bangor Daily News. “While a woman or a couple grapples with this decision, the one thing they should never, ever have to worry about is whether the providing clinic they choose to utilize is clean and safe.”
The TRAP bill would have affected the Planned Parenthood Health Center, the Mabel Wadsworth Women’s Health Center, and Maine Family Planning.
The anti-choice measure would have exempted physicians’ offices from the new standards. While the TRAP legislation could be revived by the senate, where Republicans hold a 20-15 majority, it would face an uphill battle due to strong opposition in the house.