New Maine Law Forces Insurers Public & Private to Cover Abortions

Maine Governor Janet Mills signs a bill Wednesday in her office in Augusta, Maine. (AP Photo/Marina Villeneuve)

AUGUSTA, Maine (CN) – Maine Governor Janet Mills signed a bill Thursday that requires public and private insurance companies to cover abortion as part of prenatal care.

Having already passed Maine’s Democrat-led House and Senate, the bill will take effect in 90 days.

Though the bill has faced pushback from Republicans and a handful of Democrats, proponents note that coverage restrictions are particularly harmful for lower-incomes patients.

“Three in four (76%) voters believe that women having insurance coverage for the full range of reproductive health care, including birth control, pregnancy tests, prenatal care, and abortion is important to ensuring that they have equal economic opportunities,” the ACLU said in March.

Ahead of a hearing that month on the bill before the state Legislature, the ACLU quoted the experience of Durham resident Mindy Woerter learning at 13 weeks pregnant that her baby had a rare and lethal anomaly incompatible with life.

A month after making the difficult choice to terminate her pregnancy, Woerter said she received a $6,000 bill from her insurer because the procedure was not covered. “Thanks to my privilege, I was able to access the care I needed,” Woerter said. “All women, no matter their source of insurance, should have abortion covered as any other medical procedure would be.”

The Maine Right to Life Committee denounced the bill when it passed Maine’s Senate in May, calling it a blow to the Hyde Amendment, which bars the use of federal Medicaid funds to cover the cost of abortion except when it is needed to save the life of the mother, or in cases of rape or incest.

The group has not responded Thursday to a request for comment.

In March, the ACLU noted that 15 states ensure coverage of abortion for people with Medicaid, and that another eight provide expanded coverage.

“There are no similar limits on private insurance covering abortion care,” the ACLU said. “But while a number of insurance providers cover abortion in Maine, many plans do not — even in the extreme circumstances of sexual assault and life endangerment.”

Lawmakers sponsored Maine’s abortion-coverage bill after restrictions put in place by Mills’ predecessor, former Governor Paul LePage, spurred a lawsuit.

“Maine has thus far denied coverage for abortion under Medicaid and, under the LePage administration, went further by denying access to birth control and other preventive health services if that care was provided on the same day as an abortion,” the ACLU said in March.

The Maine Senate approved the bill Wednesday by a vote of 19-16. The House approved the bill 82-59.

Earlier this week, Mills signed a bill that allowed medical professionals who are not doctors to legally perform abortions.

Congress passed the Hyde Amendment in 1976 – three years after the Supreme Court legalized abortion with Roe v. Wade.

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