On the 47th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 US Supreme Court decision that established the constitutional right to safe and legal abortion, Maine Family Planning is affirming recent victories and girding for the battle ahead.
With the passage of LD 820, Maine law now requires public and private health insurance that covers prenatal and maternity care to also cover abortion care. Maine also passed a law allowing trained and qualified advanced practice clinicians like nurse practitioners to provide abortion care, ensuring more patients can receive care in their communities from providers they trust.
These new laws are already making a huge difference for patients across our large and rural state. We hear the relief on the phone when patients with MaineCare insurance learn that their procedure will be covered. We have more patients getting abortion care at their local MFP health center, now that it’s much easier to schedule timely appointments close to home. In addition, our patients are now more able to access abortion care, earlier in their pregnancies.
These victories – and the campaign to win them, which lifted up the voices of people who have had abortions – represent great strides by the state of Maine to rise to the promise of Roe.
Abortion Rights at Risk
However, even as Maine knocked down barriers to care, the Trump-Pence administration and emboldened anti-abortion politicians ramped up their attacks nationwide. From the unlawful Domestic Gag Rule, to the unprecedented wave of extreme abortion bans that swept across the country in 2019, to the stacking of federal courts with judges hostile to basic reproductive rights, to an alarming rate of closures among fellow independent abortion providers, the country is experiencing an all-out assault on safe, legal abortion.
In March, the US Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in June Medical Services v. Gee, challenging a Louisiana abortion restriction nearly identical to one struck down in the court’s Whole Woman’s Health decision three years ago. If the court overturns its own precedent, it will jeopardize prior rulings protecting reproductive health care, including Roe v. Wade. Furthermore, the case jeopardizes abortion providers’ ability to even sue on behalf of their patients.
Earlier this month, more than 200 members of Congress submitted a brief asking the court to use the Louisiana case to overturn Roe v Wade — which the court could do as early as June. Hundreds of patients, providers, and advocates have submitted their own briefs. (MFP nurse practitioner Julie Jenkins, who provides care at Belfast Family Planning, contributed to this amicus brief.)
If Roe Falls, What Happens in Maine?
MFP president and CEO George Hill has written about how Maine’s Reproductive Privacy Act protects the right to abortion in our state, should Roe be weakened or overturned entirely.
“But state statutes are less secure than protections memorialized in state constitutions,” he warned in a 2018 op-ed in the Bangor Daily News. “State law can be changed or repealed in the course of a single four- to six-month legislative session. Opponents of reproductive freedom know this and are poised to act once they have another friendly justice on the high court. Were the Reproductive Privacy Act to be repealed, we would join the 22 other states where Roe’s demise would have a devastating effect.”
There is no doubt that states are the 2020 battleground for reproductive rights.
That’s why we must elect leaders at every level of government who believe in science and evidence-based health care, who support abortion rights and access to birth control, who will reject anti-abortion judicial nominees, and who value bodily autonomy and reproductive freedom.
On this important anniversary, we stand in solidarity with the patients, providers, and advocates across this country who are fighting medically unnecessary abortion bans and restrictions that disproportionately harm poor people and people of color. Together, we will realize a world where people become parents when and if they want to; where people can build the families they envision in peace, safety, and security; where each person is able to make health decisions that are best for their circumstances, including whether to get an abortion, without interference from politicians.
We have a lot of work to do in 2020. Today is the perfect day to re-commit to our collective movement for reproductive freedom.
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