Maine will soon expand abortion access, joining a half dozen states that leave it to doctors and patients to make the decision without restrictions on timing.
Democratic Gov. Janet Mills signed a bill into law Wednesday that allows abortions at any time if deemed medically necessary by a doctor, making the law one of the nation’s least restrictive. The previous law banned abortions after a fetus becomes viable outside the womb, at roughly 24 weeks, but allowed an exception if the patient’s life is at risk.
“Maine law should recognize that every pregnancy, like every woman, is different, and that politicians cannot and should not try to legislate the wide variety of difficult circumstances pregnant women face,” Mills said before signing the bill.
The law goes into effect 90 days after the state Legislature’s session ends in the coming weeks.
Passage of the bill was considered a foregone conclusion in the Legislature where Democrats controlled both chambers, and there were enough co-sponsors to ensure passage.
But the bill nonetheless generated emotional debate.
Critics said the law’s language was broader than necessary if the goal was simply to allow abortions in instances of a fatal fetal anomaly later in a pregnancy. They said it could lead to a dramatic increase in post-viability abortions, and that it puts too much faith in doctors to make a determination.
Nationally, many Republican-controlled states are doing just the opposite from what Maine did by either banning or restricting abortions since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a patient’s constitutional right to an abortion, leaving it up to individual states to regulate the procedure.
Most Democratic-controlled states have taken steps to protect abortion access, though none has gone as far as Maine since the Supreme Court ruling last year.
Beside Maine, six states leave the decision to get an abortion to doctors and their patients, without restrictions. They are Alaska, Colorado, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon and Vermont, plus Washington, D.C.
The Rev. Jane Field of the Maine Council of Churches said that the group’s more than 400 congregations support the bill rather than a one-size-fits-all approach to abortion.
“We do not believe that anyone should be forced to remain pregnant by the govern