Doctor counseling patient

Mabel Wadsworth Women’s Health Center v. Mayhew

Location: Maine
Status: Ongoing
Last Update: November 24, 2015

What's at Stake

The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Maine, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America filed a lawsuit seeking to restore abortion coverage for women who qualify for MaineCare. Current Maine Department of Health and Human Services policy bans abortion coverage under the state’s public insurance program, except in extremely limited circumstances, in violation of the Maine Constitution and state statute.

The lawsuit was filed in Cumberland County Superior Court on behalf of Mabel Wadsworth Women’s Health Center, Maine Family Planning and Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, three health care providers specializing in comprehensive reproductive and sexual health care, including abortion. The nonprofits provide care to 21,500 Mainers each year, more than half of them low income.

MaineCare withholds coverage for abortion from eligible women, but will cover a full range of pregnancy-related care for women who choose to carry their pregnancies to term. The lawsuit argues that, in doing so, the state interferes with a woman’s fundamental right to decide whether or not to continue a pregnancy and discriminates against women who decide to have an abortion.

It contends that the ban on abortion coverage for qualified women who use MaineCare services violates the “liberty and safety clause” of the Maine Constitution, which provides that all people have an inherent right to pursue and obtain safety and happiness, as well as the “equal protection clause,” which holds that no person shall be denied the equal protection of the laws.

The women impacted by this policy are, by definition, low-income. For many of them, the denial of funding for an abortion causes them to delay their abortions, at a potential risk to their health. Some women skip necessary expenses such as food, rent or heat in order to save enough to have an abortion. Since the majority of women who have abortions already have a child at home, this means entire families may suffer. Still other women have been forced to carry their pregnancies to term.

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