Maine Gov. Janet Mills signed into law a measure that will allow nurse practitioners and physician assistants to perform abortions, a move that reproductive rights advocates say will increase access to this type of healthcare for patients in rural areas.
"These healthcare professionals are trained in family planning, counseling, and abortion procedures, the overwhelming majority of which are completed without complications," Mills said in a statement on Monday. "By signing this bill into law, Maine is defending the rights of women and taking a step towards equalizing access to care as other states are seeking to undermine, roll back, or outright eliminate these services."
Maine currently has only three clinics where women can obtain abortion care. The bill, L.D. 1261, allows non-physician health professionals to prescribe abortion medication, known as "the abortion pill," and offer in-clinic terminations. Eight other states currently have similar laws in place. Research has shown that nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, and physician assistants are able to provide the same level of safe abortion care as physicians. Abortions are already an extremely safe procedure: According to research, the risk of major complications on first-trimester terminations is less than 0.5%. (First-trimester abortions make up 91% of all terminations.) In fact, the risk of dying in childbirth is 14 times higher than the risk of dying from an abortion.
The measure is part of a trend of reproductive-health advocates and pro-choice lawmakers pushing measures and taking executive action to protect access to abortion care at the state level, as their conservative counterparts attempt to restrict or outright ban the procedure. Just on Monday, Gov. Phil Scott of Vermont signed into law a constitutional amendment to ensure abortion rights are guaranteed in the state.
"As other states pass laws outlawing abortion, Maine’s leaders have stepped up to protect the health and wellbeing of individuals and families in our great state," Oamshri Amarasingham, advocacy director at the ACLU of Maine, said in a statement provided to Refinery29. "This law will help eliminate a significant barrier to abortion access in Maine and ensure that each of us can make decisions about our health and our future without political interference."