Sponsored by Speaker Sara Gideon, LD 1261 is a Governor’s bill that would repeal a ban that prevents nurse practitioners from providing abortion services

AUGUSTA – Speaker of the House Sara Gideon today testified in support of LD 1261, “An Act To Authorize Certain Health Care Professionals To Perform Abortions,” before the Committee on Health Coverage, Insurance, and Financial Services. LD 1261 seeks to allow advanced practice clinicians (Physicians Assistants, Nurse Midwives and Nurse Practitioners within certain scopes of practice and training) the ability to provide abortion services that are currently only performed by physicians in Maine today. 

“No matter where they live, every woman has the right to safely make her own health decisions, control her own future, and get care from their provider of her choice,” said Speaker Gideon. “If we increase the number of providers in Maine, then we are making real gains towards equitable access to health care for all women who need an abortion. 

“States across the country, including Vermont, New Hampshire, California, Montana and Oregon, have all eliminated physician only restrictions already. Doing so in Maine will allow women to receive the care they need from a provider they trust,  eliminate the financial and logistical hurdles they face today, and bring down both the health risk and financial cost.”

Maine’s leading reproductive health and rights groups—Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, Maine Family Planning, Mabel Wadsworth Health Center, and the ACLU of Maine—voiced have their support for  LD 1261.

Every day in Maine, nurse practitioners perform many medical procedures more complex and complicated than abortion. In fact, nurse practitioners and other advanced practice clinicians have provided abortion care in New Hampshire and Vermont for decades.

Data, including from the CDC, shows abortion has a 99 percent safety record, meaning fewer than one percent of abortions have complications. Peer-reviewed medical literature, including a recent four-year study of more than 11,000 abortion patients published in the American Journal of Public Health, uniformly confirms that nurse practitioners can safely and effectively provide abortion care.

Many health organizations, including the nation’s leading women’s health care providers, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the World Health Organization, and the American Public Health Association, support allowing nurse practitioners to provide abortion services. 

You can read Speaker Gideon’s full written testimony below.

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Senator Sanborn, Representative Tepler and distinguished members of the Joint Standing Committee on Health Coverage, Insurance, and Financial Services, I am Sara Gideon, and I represent the town of Freeport and part of Pownal. I also have the distinct honor of serving as the Speaker of the Maine House. I’m here today to present Governor Mill’s bill, LD 1261, An Act To Authorize Certain Health Care Professionals To Perform Abortions and to speak in support of it. I’d like to thank the Governor for her leadership on this issue and am proud to stand with her in support of access to reproductive health care for the women of our state. 

LD 1261 seeks to allow advanced practice clinicians (Physicians Assistants, Nurse Midwives and Nurse Practitioners within certain scopes of practice and training) the ability to provide abortion services that are currently only performed by physicians in Maine today.   This is a modernization of an existing and outdated law which adversely affects Maine women, particularly those who live in rural areas.  Let me explain.  

In 1979 Maine created a law that prohibits, under threat of criminal prosecution, anyone other than a licensed physician from providing abortion services. Now, at the time, the law sought to protect Maine women from dangerous back-alley abortions.  But in the forty years since this law was enacted, things have changed.  Medical technology has developed significantly, advanced practice clinicians have become a mature profession and are now defined as primary care clinicians by the ACA. Abortions are routinely and safely performed in health care centers. In a state like Maine, advanced practice clinicians play a particularly critical role in expanding timely and comprehensive access to reproductive health care.  And in a state like Maine, where demand for cost-effective health care is increasing every day and where workforce development has become a key component of health care reform, we know that all qualified health professionals should perform clinical care to the fullest extent of their education and competency.

The American Journal of Public Health recently published a four year study of more than 11,000 patients that clearly showed that there is no statistical difference in the care provided by APCs and physicians. Leading health care organizations, such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the World Health Organization, and the American Public Health Association, support allowing APCs like nurse practitioners to provide abortion services.  And today in Maine, APCs are trained, qualified and licensed to conduct various gynecological procedures, including miscarriage treatment (treatment that is identical to the procedure for an early in-clinic abortion) which they practice in medical offices from Caribou to Kittery. In fact, abortion is the only procedure an APC is prohibited from performing in Maine.  This outdated law is the reason.  

Abortion procedures are among the safest medical procedures in the U.S. today, and APCs can be trained to provide abortions at the same level of safety and effectiveness as physicians.  

Right now our state has only three publicly accessible health care centers where a patient can get an in-office abortion. One in Augusta, one in Bangor, and one in Portland. Because the current law requires that abortions can only be performed by physicians, each clinic only offers abortion services one day per week and most women will have to be treated by someone with whom they have no relationship or history.  Because of current law, combined with the everyday challenges of work schedules, time off, childcare and transportation, women in rural parts of the state may have to travel as far as six hours round trip to seek care.  This is true even when there may be a qualified health care provider close by, who is capable and experienced in treating them and with whom they have a relationship.  

I stand with you today because this is the right thing to do.  These barriers, created from a 1979 law, are unnecessary.  No matter where she lives, every woman has the right to safely make her own health decisions, control her own future, and get care from her provider of her choice. If we increase the number of providers in Maine, then we are making real gains towards equitable access to healthcare for all women who need an abortion. States across the country, including Vermont, New Hampshire, California, Montana and Oregon, have all eliminated physician only restrictions already.  Doing so in Maine will allow women to receive the care they need from a provider they trust.  It will eliminate the financial and logistical hurdles they face today, bringing both health risk and financial cost down.  I thank you for considering this important piece of legislation today. 

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