Maine will allow advanced practice clinicians who aren’t full-fledged doctors to perform abortions.
The state’s democratic Gov. Janet Mills signed a bill legalizing that into law on Monday.
It supersedes an existing mandate that only Maine doctors perform abortions and expands the limits on which healthcare providers have that ability to include people like nurse practitioners and physician assistants.
Planned Parenthood nurse practitioner, Samantha Small, will be one of those providers.
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Right now, the women’s health organization’s Maine branch only performs abortions one day a week in Portland.
Once the provider law goes into effect later in 2019, Small will be able to provide full abortion services in the Topsham office, potentially saving women seeking care more than an hour of driving, round-trip.
“To make them go to a health center they’re not comfortable with, to see providers they’ve never met, to a city they’re not familiar with is just unnecessary and cruel,” she said.
Pro-life activists are not happy with the law change.
Mike McClellan, from the Christian Civic League of Maine, is having discussions with other groups to prepare to political or legal challenges to a number of controversial laws passed by state lawmakers this year.
“People are fired up,” said McClellan who said mechanisms like a citizen’s veto, where Maine voters overturn a law with a statewide vote could be used to overturn the advanced clinician law, a new vaccine mandate for public school children and a proposal legalizing physician assisted suicide.
“There are groups of people talking about working collaboratively because as you know it takes a lot of work to get an issue to the ballot box,” said McClellan.
One challenge critics of the advanced clinician law may not be able to mount, claiming nurse practitioners and physicians assistants don’t have the experience to perform abortions safely.
The Maine Medical Association has already said it supports the change.
“There’s really no concern for safety for patients,” said Small.
Maine joins seven other states with similar laws allowing advanced practice clinicians to perform abortions including New Hampshire and Vermont.