Abortion in Maine — Protecting Access to a Safe, Legal Procedure

This week, we feature testimony given at a Judiciary Committee hearing regarding LD 1339 and LD 760 – bills that would restrict access to abortion in Maine.

These bills will come up for a vote this week, please call your legislators and ask them to reject any further restrictions to abortion services.

My name is Ruth Lockhart and I am Executive Director and Co-Founder of Mabel Wadsworth Women’s Health Center in Bangor. We are one of only three public centers where a woman seeking an abortion in Maine can go.

I’m going to share with you how abortion care works at Mabel Wadsworth Center to dispel any myths or misconceptions about how are abortions are provided for women in Aroostook, Hancock, Penobscot, Piscataquis, Waldo and Washington counties.

Most of the women who seek abortion care at Mabel Wadsworth Center are referred to us by their primary care physician, so they have already consulted with a doctor before coming to us.  We conduct an intake screening for every woman. If the patient is seeking an abortion, we ask detailed questions about medical history, their reasons for seeking an abortion, and their support systems.  We want to make sure that she has people in her life that she can talk to as she makes this decision.

If a woman seeking an abortion is from the Bangor area, we generally make two appointments for her.  At the first appointment, we conduct a full medical exam including an ultrasound to confirm how far along she is in her pregnancy.  We provide abortion care in the first trimester.  Following the medical exam, we conduct a counseling/education session for all women where we offer them information about all of their pregnancy options – continuing the pregnancy to term and parenting, making an adoption plan or abortion.  If the woman decides to terminate the pregnancy, we see her for a second appointment and the abortion is performed by a fully licensed and experienced physician.

For adult women from Aroostook or Washington counties – particularly working mothers – we will sometimes schedule a single appointment where we perform first the exam, then the counseling/education session, then the abortion procedure.  I grew up in the County in Fort Fairfield, so I understand well the barriers that transportation poses for women for whom a medical visit in Bangor means a 6 to 8 hour round-trip.

Most minors are accompanied by their mom or dad, but because not all minors can bring a parent, Maine’s adult involvement law assures that minors always have a trusted adult present and involved in their decision.

LD 1339 would eliminate Maine’s adult involvement law and require that every minor obtain parental consent, seek a judicial bypass, or sign an affidavit officially naming her parents as abusers.

We ask every minor who approaches us to involve her parents because we genuinely think it’s best for them to involve their parents in such a serious decision.  The exceptions to this rule can be tragic.  It may sound easy to the proponents of this bill to say that girls who have abusive parents should just go to court.  Indeed, we always urge girls who are victims of abuse or incest to go to the authorities and bring any offender to justice.  But these situations are very complicated, and minors want more than anything to protect their parents, even bad parents.

I came of age before Roe v. Wade.  I learned then that desperate teens take desperate actions – herbs, lye, coat hangers.  I fear greatly what could happen if you pass LD 1339.  Teens that can’t or won’t talk to their parents aren’t going to start talking to their parents because the law requires them to do so.

Please let our current adult involvement law stand.  It works.

LD 760 seeks to amend the informed consent law to add scripting requirements to be read to every woman seeking an abortion.

Abortion is a medical procedure, performed by trained medical professionals.  Government bureaucrats should not have a say in what is said to women at the doctor’s office.  This is political interference in a woman’s most personal, private medical decision.  Doctors, not politicians, should decide what is said to a patient.

You can be assured that the medical professionals at Mabel Wadsworth Center and our sister clinics at the Family Planning Association of Maine in Augusta and Planned Parenthood of Northern New England in Portland offer women scientifically and medically accurate information about all of their options.

Please don’t force our doctors to read a script that injects non-medical information designed to shame the women we serve.

We started Mabel Wadsworth Center because we believe strongly in providing the best health care possible to all women. Women come to us for a wide variety of services.  Most of our patients are mothers.  Many of the women who seek abortion care in our clinic are mothers, too.

Please don’t place more unnecessary, political barriers between these women and their access to a safe, legal medical procedure.  I urge you to protect women’s health and to trust women.

Thank you.

 

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