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Letter to Our Senators: Please Oppose S. 2311

January 23, 2018

Dear Senator:

I strongly urge you to oppose S. 2311, the so-called “Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.” As Maine’s first public abortion provider, Mabel Wadsworth Center has helped women across Maine access important reproductive health services, including abortion, since 1994. We know firsthand how important abortion care is to our region and the impact access to safe and legal abortion has on our clients.

Located in Bangor, we are the only facility to provide the procedure north of Augusta, meaning that many Women from our state’s most rural Counties, including Aroostook and Washington, come to our clinic for services. As you know, these areas are extremely rural and travel, especially during harsh Maine winters, can be difficult. We currently provide abortion up to 14 weeks and therefore must refer women who may need abortion later in pregnancy to other clinics in Maine and New England.

I firmly believe that S. 2311 would restrict access to abortion care for the women who need it most. In my experience, women who need abortion after the first trimester are more likely to be young, poor and managing challenging circumstances such as domestic abuse, sexual assault, drug dependence, among others. If a woman is involved with an abusive partner, for example, she could be subjected to reproductive coercion, the practice of controlling and the term used to describe behaviors that are used by an abuser to control a woman’s reproductive health and options. These behaviors vary but could include sabotaging her birth control method; forcing someone to continue an unwanted pregnancy; or prevent you from choosing whether or not to continue a pregnancy. Rather than protecting women’s health, this bill would punish women who are already vulnerable.

Just recently, I counseled a young woman who was unexpectedly pregnant and seeking an abortion at our clinic. Her long-acting birth control method failed but she didn’t exhibit any typical pregnancy symptoms. As a result, she didn’t realize she was pregnant until she was 23 weeks. This 19-year old worked at a minimum wage job and was hoping to save money in the future to go to college. For many reasons, she did not feel ready to parent, so we helped her find a way to get an abortion at another facility out of state. She couldn’t tell any of her family members and doesn’t even have a driver’s license. This facility was more than five hours drive from her home and would cost more than three times the amount it does at our clinic. Despite these barriers, she was determined not to continue this pregnancy and found a way to get to the other clinic. She was very clear about wanting a future that included completing her education and finding a good job before becoming a parent.

There are many reasons a woman may need abortion care after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Politicians shouldn’t be making these decisions; they should be decided between a woman and her medical provider. Most women who decide to have an abortion are incredibly clear about their decision; the last thing they need is the government attempting to tell them what’s best.

Unfortunately, cuts in healthcare and other safety net programs make accessing family planning services more difficult than ever. Restricting a woman’s ability to terminate an unwanted pregnancy further punishes poor women who are already facing significant barriers.

I urge you to oppose this bill. It would have major consequences for Maine women and their ability to make the decisions that are best for themselves and their families.

Sincerely,

Executive Director, Mabel Wadsworth Center