A lawsuit seeking to challenge a Maine law allowing only doctors to perform abortions has drawn criticism from pro-life advocates who warned it could endanger women’s health and safety. “I’m gravely concerned about the health and safety of the mother,” Suzanne Lafreniere, director of public policy for Diocese of Portland, told CNA.
Lafreniere predicted that allowing non-doctors to perform abortions will worsen medical complications in communities that lack immediate help from a local hospital or doctor who knows the procedure well. Maine law currently allows abortions to be performed only by physicians. About three-quarters of U.S. states have similar laws, though two other states in the region, Vermont and New Hampshire, do not.
The plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit are the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood, four nurses, and abortion provider Maine Family Planning. The defendants named in the lawsuit are Maine Attorney General Janet Mills and several district attorneys. Mills’ spokesman said her office had not been served with the suit and had no comment on the case’s merits.
The outcome of the suit could open the possibility for advanced-practice nurses, physician assistants, or nurse midwives to perform abortions. Lafreniere described the lawsuit as “a desperate attempt to increase abortions in the state of Maine.” She said that the number of surgical abortions has been declining in Maine, and that the abortion lobby is doing “everything it can to increase its business, to be perfectly honest.”
Dr. Raegan McDonald-Moseley, chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood, contended that the current abortion requirements are “outdated,” don’t keep women safe, and aren’t grounded in research, the Associated Press reports.
However, Clarke Forsythe, senior counsel at Americans United for Life, said that requiring only doctors to perform abortions “establishes a high standard of safety for patient care.” Allowing non-doctors to perform abortions would “further isolate abortions from other gynecological care,” he told CNA.
According to Forsythe, the number of doctors who provide abortion services has continued to shrink. “Doctors don’t want to get into the business,” he said. “The abortion industry and population controllers have been desperately looking to increase the number of abortionists.” He suggested this phenomenon is another example of the incorrect assumptions of the 1973 Supreme Court decision that mandated legal abortion nationwide. The court wrongly assumed “that doctors from the Mayo Clinic and from medical schools across the country would be eager to be abortionists.”
Lafreniere said the effort could spread to other states. “They have announced that this is a test case, and if they win in Maine they will continue to proliferate these types of lawsuits in other states where the law requires a doctor to perform abortions,” she said. Forsythe agreed, describing the lawsuit as “a direct and tragic result” of a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down health and safety regulations for Texas abortion clinics.
“The Supreme Court created substantial confusion in the Texas decision, by issuing a vague and ambiguous opinion that states and courts have had difficulty understanding and applying,” he said. “The court created substantial confusion as to the legal standard for abortion laws for legislators and judges.”