Health care providers on both sides of the abortion debate have begun to weigh in on a Maine bill to allow nurse practitioners, physician assistants and certified nurse-midwives to perform abortions.
Supporters buoyed by Democratic wins in November said at a Wednesday hearing that the bill would expand rural women's access to care. Opponents said Democratic Gov. Janet Mills' bill lacks physician oversight over such mid-level providers.
Abortion rights research organization Guttmacher Institute says 34 states only allowed abortions by licensed physicians. States such as California, New Hampshire and Vermont allow certain non-physicians to perform abortions.
A pending federal lawsuit seeks to strike down a 40-year-old Maine law preventing non-doctors from performing abortions.
Mills says Maine's decades-old limitations lack medical justification and leave women with few options for in-clinic abortions.