ACLU and Planned Parenthood Take on Unconstitutional Abortion Restrictions in Maine

Legal abortion is one of the safest services in contemporary medicine, and the evidence is crystal clear that nurse practitioners and nurse-midwives can safely and effectively provide this care in the first trimester of pregnancy. But Maine law blocks these qualified providers from serving their patients, and, as a result, some rural women are being forced to travel hundreds of miles to get an abortion.

That’s not just bad policy — it’s unconstitutional. So we’re going to court.

Today the ACLU, the ACLU of Maine, and Planned Parenthood filed a federal lawsuit challenging a provision in Maine law that requires that abortions be performed solely by physicians and blocks qualified nurse practitioners and nurse-midwives — also known as advanced practice registered nurses, or APRNs — from doing so.

Peer-reviewed medical literature, including a recent four-year study of more than 11,000 abortion patients published in the American Journal of Public Health, uniformly confirms that APRNs can safely and effectively provide this care early in pregnancy.

Citing these strong safety data, medical authorities ranging from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to the World Health Organization, have concluded that laws prohibiting APRNs from providing abortion services early in pregnancy are medically unfounded.

This restriction simply has nothing to do with clinical expertise or patient safety.

In fact, abortion is the only health care service the state singles out as beyond an APRN’s scope of practice. APRNs in Maine regularly perform services that are comparable to first-trimester abortion in complexity and risk, including miscarriage management — which is identical to the procedure used for an early in-clinic abortion. And, of course, nurse-midwives can and do safely deliver babies, which poses far greater risks than the care at issue here.

All this law does is hurt patients. And, as is so often the case with restrictions on abortion, low-income and rural women suffer the most.

Maine's abortion restriction simply has nothing to do with clinical expertise or patient safety.

Because of this medically unjustified restriction, patients in Maine have very limited options when it comes to where and when they can obtain abortion care. Some patients in rural areas have had to delay their care for weeks, and travel for hours, just to get an abortion — even though there is a qualified provider in their community ready and willing to care for them.

That is unacceptable and unconstitutional.

This is the first court challenge to a physician-only law since the Supreme Court made clear in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt that states cannot burden patient access to abortion without proof of a valid medical justification. Maine’s physician-only law simply cannot survive this test.

Our plaintiffs — four APRNs and two reproductive health care providers in Maine — just want to be able to provide safe, compassionate care to their patients. Maine has no legitimate reason for preventing them from doing so.

We won’t rest until this unjustified and harmful restriction is off the books.

Get an ACLU Repro Rights tank top (unisex) here while supplies last.

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Janet Singer


Diana Taylor

Thank you Julia! Thank you Julie Jenkins and colleagues for standing up for abortion access!
So glad our research could be helpful...see some updates on putting evidence into action from UCSF ANSIRH abortion care workforce projects:


When you know the murderous abortion industry is beyond desperate to keep their agenda fooling young women.. make killing babies out of convenience appear a "constitutional right". That's called making an attempt at dumbing down every women (and man) in America.

Nancy Foss

Such a long time coming and so happy this effort is moving ahead!

Jeriah Knox

Your abortion gospel is showing and it stinks.......Why do you believed in killing little ones to make the world a better place? Trade your marriage for a fling and your baby for some bling.

Only a belief system will claim to know when the offspring should have human rights and be protected from the big people that want to kill it. Why should this belief system legislate and legalize child sacrifice for material gains?

Dr. Joseph Goebbels

The A.C.L.U. is right in getting involved. Currently, they are using advanced D.N.A. technology to detect and abort gay fetuses. That's discrimination if there ever was any. Of course, you won't heard about it in the main stream news media.


I consider these meetings a good initiative, it is important that people can peacefully convey their views to other people


long sought this information, thank you guys for the post!

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