PORTLAND, Maine — A New England chapter of the abortion and contraceptive giant Planned Parenthood has filed a federal lawsuit to challenge a Maine law that only permits physicians to perform abortions as the group believes that nurse practitioners and midwives should also be able to kill unborn babies.
The suit, filed in conjunction with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and several nurse practitioners, asserts that Maine’s “Physician-Only Law” “imposes severe burdens on women seeking abortions” because in some cases they have to travel a significant distance to have their child’s life ended.
“At both Maine Family Planning and PPNNE, the delays resulting from the Physician-Only law are often exacerbated by the time it takes patients to raise money for the procedure (which, because of delays caused by the Physician-Only law, may be more expensive) and for travel to the procedure (which, because of the Physician-Only law, may be far longer and more expensive),” it states.
“As a result of the lengthy travel distances the Physician-Only law imposes, some women are simply unable to obtain an abortion and are instead forced to carry a pregnancy to term against their will,” the suit asserts.
The groups further contend that the poor are most affected by the regulation, since there are three abortion facilities in the state and they do not have the funds to travel.
“Plaintiffs’ poor and low-income patients routinely tell them that they do not have, and will not be able to find, the money they need to travel to a clinic in a different city for abortion care,” the lawsuit outlines.
The legal challenge, in asserting that abortion is safer than carrying a pregnancy to term, says that allowing APRNs and midwives to perform first trimester abortions would make abortion more readily available to women.
“If not for the Physician-Only law, the number of Maine communities where aspiration abortion care is available would increase from three to eighteen, including Belfast, Calais, Ellsworth, Farmington, Fort Kent, Lewiston, Machias, Norway, Presque Isle, Rockland, Rumford, Sanford, Skowhegan, Topsham, and Waterville,” it states.
“If the Physician-Only law were invalidated, abortion care would be available in Maine six days of theweek, for longer hours (including evenings), and typically in five or more locations on any given day,” the suit continues. “This expanded access would dramatically reduce delays and the associated medical, emotional, and financial harm that women in Maine are experiencing as a result of the Physician-Only law.”
The ACLU and Planned Parenthood of Northern New England are seeking a declaration that the law is unconstitutional, as well as an injunction against its enforcement.
However, pro-life groups in the state said that abortion access should not be expanded as mothers should not be provided with additional avenues to kill their children.
“We are against violence inside and outside the womb,” Teresa McCann-Tumidajski, executive director of Maine Right to Life, told the Portland Press-Herald. “We don’t want to open up new avenues of access to abortion.”
In an introductory lecture to his course on obstetrics in 1854, Philadelphia OB/GYN Hugh Lennox Hodge explained that if a woman were to come to a medical doctor in pursuit of an abortion, “he must, as it were, grasp the conscience of his weak and erring patient and let her know in language not to be misunderstood that she is responsible to her Creator for the life of the being within her.”
“The procuring abortion is ‘a base and unmanly act,’” Hodge also said, quoting in part text from a court ruling of his day. “It is a crime against the natural feelings of man, against the welfare and safety of females, against the peace and prosperity of society, against the divine command ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ It is murder.”