Planned Parenthood Sues Over Maine Abortion Law

REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

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Grace Carr Reporter
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Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued the state of Maine on Wednesday over a law that says only doctors can perform abortions rather than other medical personnel.

The two abortion advocate groups filed their suit in a U.S. District Court in Portland, and allege that the 1979 law is unnecessary and makes it too difficult for women seeking abortions since more than 60 percent of Maine residents don’t live in urban areas, according to Reuters. The Maine Attorney General’s Office as well as the district attorneys in Maine’ 16 counties will serve as the defendants in the case.

Most Maine women travel to Portland, Augusta, or Bangor to receive abortions at Planned Parenthood clinics in these cities, but the plaintiffs argue that this isn’t good enough. Women shouldn’t have to travel long distances to clinics when midwives or nurse-practitioners can perform the same task, they argue.

“Maine is a large, rural state, and much of the year travel can be difficult, so laws like these can be especially harmful,” Zachary Heiden, the legal director for the ACLU of Maine told the Portland Press Herald on Wednesday. “This law significantly restricts patient access to abortion services in Maine, and prevents some Maine women from receiving an abortion from their regular primary and gynecological care provider,” Planned Parenthood also said in a statement Wednesday.

“The fact that I can provide this service in New Hampshire, and when I step across the border into Maine I can’t, is simply ridiculous,” said midwife Katie Riley, who works both at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Portland and Manchester, N.H.

Maine’s pro-life groups don’t feel the same.

“We are against violence inside and outside the womb,” said the executive director of Maine Right to Life, Teresa McCann-Tumidajskian. “We don’t want to open up new avenues of access to abortion,” she added.

The ruling on this lawsuit will have vast ramifications for other states with similar laws, who will seek to challenge those laws if Planned Parenthood and the ACLU succeed in Maine, Heiden told the Portland Herald.

He noted that 41 other states have similar laws.

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