Maine House Rejects Four Antiabortion-Rights Bills

June 8, 2011 — The Maine House on Tuesday rejected four bills aiming to restrict abortion access, including measures related to waiting periods, pre-abortion counseling, parental consent and crimes against pregnant women, the AP/Boston Globe reports.

One bill (HP 98) would have required women to give written consent and then wait 24 hours prior to receiving abortion care (Adams, AP/Boston Globe, 6/8). Another measure (HP 684) would have required that women seeking abortion services be informed of the risks of abortion at least 24 hours before the procedure and require state health officials to develop a brochure describing the risks and alternatives to abortion (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/5). Under the bill, women also would have been informed that the father was liable for child support (AP/Boston Globe, 6/8).

The third bill (HP 1072) would have repealed the state's current parental consent law, which requires a minor to obtain consent from her parents, guardians, an adult family member, judge or counselor before she may have an abortion. Instead, the bill would require the minor to obtain notarized written consent from a parent or legal guardian, with few exceptions (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/5).

Opponents of the bills said they are unnecessary and could interfere with women's ability to receive abortion care.

The House on Tuesday also voted to reject a bill (LD 1463) that would have given legal status to a fetus in the event of an assault on a pregnant woman. The bill would have created several new crimes -- including murder, manslaughter and aggravated assault -- against a fetus. The vote came one day after the Senate voted to reject the measure (AP/Boston Globe, 6/8).

Opponents of the bill said that it was an attempt to erode abortion rights and that language including the term "unborn child" lacked an accepted legal or medical definition. Sen. Justin Alfond (D) said the bill could cause women to delay treatment for substance abuse or domestic violence for fear of being prosecuted.

Existing Maine law requires the sentencing judge to impose extra punishment on perpetrators of crimes against pregnant women. Supporters of the bill said additional penalties are needed in such cases (Haskell, Bangor Daily News, 6/7).