Public hearing held on three abortion bills

5:56 PM, May 3, 2011   |    comments
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AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- A public hearing on three bills that would change Maine's abortion laws drew an overflow crowd to the statehouse.

Representative Tyler Clark sponsored L.D. 116, which would require a 24 hour waiting period before a procedure could be done after the initial consultation with a healthcare professional.

"It is not part of a greater plan to try to end abortions in Maine," explained Clark.  "We don't have that power, that is not what we are going for."

"The idea is that there are a lot of young women, you know, they could be scared, they just found out they are pregnant," continued Clark.  "I think they should really have a night's sleep on it.  They should talk to their families, their doctors and everything before they make a hasty decision."

L.D. 924, sponsored by Representative Ellie Espling, would require doctors and nurses to provide a brochure written by the state Department of Health and Human Services that outlines the risks and alternatives to abortion.

"It has been legal ever since I was born," stated Espling.  "There is no way we are rolling that back, it is just not possible, but I do believe we have to have some consumer protection for women."

Representative Dale Crafts sponsored L.D. 1457, which would change Maine's informed consent law by requiring parents or legal guardians of minors be informed before an abortion could be informed.

Crafts told the members of the Joint Standing Committee on Judiciary Affairs that he must sign permission slips for his kids to participate in school activities like going skiing and snowboarding, or to allow an oral surgeon to look at his kids' teeth, but under current Maine statute he would not even be informed of their decision if one of his daughters were to have an abortion.

Before the public hearing, a coalition of men and women, Republicans and Democrats, held a press conference to announce their opposition to these changes to Maine's abortion laws.

"I urge all Maine people to stand strong against extreme efforts to roll-back and chip away at protections that safeguard the health and privacy of Maine women," stated Representative Emily Cain.  "We should not hinder a woman's ability to make important choices about her body and her health."

Cain was joined by several law makers and healthcare professionals who talked about how these changes would interfere with a woman's right to choose.

"Counseling is not reading a government approved script to a patient," said Dr. Joan Leitzer.  "It is definitely not reading inflammatory anti-abortion language to a patient in an attempt to coerce or shame her into not having an abortion."

"My job is to provide complete information, therapeutic options, and to facilitate a person's care without judgement and with compassion," explained Dr. Betsy Weiss, medical director of the Mabel Wadsworth Women's Health Clinic in Bangor.  "There is no place for government to regulate that conversation."

The comments heard by the committee will be taken under advisement as they work to decide if and when these bills will make their way to the floor of the House and the Senate for debate.

NEWS CENTER

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